Aetiology, diagnosis, and treatment of brachymetatarsia: a narrative review

Musculoskelet Surg. 2022 Jun;106(2):99-109. doi: 10.1007/s12306-021-00720-z. Epub 2021 Jul 15.


Brachymetatarsia (BM), or hypoplastic metatarsal, is an abnormal shortening of one or more metatarsal bones with a female-to-male ratio of 10.53:1. Different causes are described in the literature, such as congenital, acquired, or iatrogenic, associated with different conditions and syndromes. Its presence may develop deformity and pain; however, often feet are pain free and the major worries of patients are cosmetics. Non-operative treatments aim to improve the comfort of metatarsal heads and the possible dorsal conflict through comfortable shoes or the use of specific orthotics. The surgical treatment is anything but straightforward, with "one-stage" or "two stage" techniques, the latter better called "by gradual distraction". One-stage procedures are more rapid techniques but have limited ability to restore the desired length due to neurovascular compromise caused by acute lengthening. Insufficient correction is also possible. On the contrary, by gradual distraction procedures allow gradual distraction lengthening of more than 1.5 cm, but require the use of an external fixator, with a higher risk of complications in more than about 50% of surgeries. The adjacent metatarsal shortening should be considered in combination with other techniques, to diminish the excessive lengthening. In each case, surgeries should be always decided on each patient's concerns, deformities, and clinical needs.

Keywords: Bone lengthening; Brachymetatarsia; Forefoot; Fourth; Metatarsal lengthening; Metatarsals.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • External Fixators
  • Female
  • Foot
  • Foot Deformities, Congenital* / diagnostic imaging
  • Foot Deformities, Congenital* / surgery
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metatarsal Bones* / diagnostic imaging
  • Metatarsal Bones* / surgery
  • Osteogenesis, Distraction* / methods