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Pedographic, Clinical, and Functional Outcome after Scarf Osteotomy

Lorei, Timo J, MD*; Kinast, Christian, MD; Klärner, Hans, MD*; Rosenbaum, Dieter, PhD*

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Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research®: October 2006 - Volume 451 - Issue - p 161-166
doi: 10.1097/01.blo.0000229297.29345.09
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The Scarf osteotomy was developed to treat hallux valgus deformities.1,5,8,12,14-16,18,21,22 The Scarf osteotomy has been considered if distal and subcapital osteotomies would likely be ineffective such as when the intermetatarsal angle is greater than 15° and there is an incongruent metatarsophalangeal joint,4,23 and if a proximal osteotomy seems inappropriate (typically because of insufficient initial stability for patients whose general health conditions would not allow nonweightbearing for 6 weeks).13 Barouk1 and Weil and Borrelli22 confirmed that the procedure is a reasonable option in hallux valgus surgery. After initial reports of successful results in patients with less severely affected hallux valgus, the indication for the Scarf osteotomy was expanded to include patients with more severely affected hallux valgus with substantial metatarsus primus varus.14

Studies on the short-term and long-term results of the Scarf osteotomy show reasonable results for subjective satisfaction, clinical parameters (eg, range of motion [ROM] in the metatarsophalangeal joint), and radiographic angle measurements.7,14,15 More recent studies used pedographic measurements for functional evaluation of postoperative foot-loading characteristics.16,18 Investigators of these studies described physiologic forefoot loading after 18 or 20 months, respectively.8,18

However, the results of these studies are not consistent because Jones et al8 found reduced loading under the first metatarsal with higher loads under the second metatarsal whereas Sabo and Buchner18 reported increased loading of the first ray. These authors considered different parameters such as peak pressures8 or maximum force18 but disregarded the impulse values that are appropriate for describing the overall loading effect because they take into account the amplitude and the duration of load application. Therefore, the impulse values might be more indicative for pain attributable to overloading. Furthermore, these investigations did not evaluate the potential relationship between radiographic and pedographic parameters that could be helpful for surgical planning with respect to the desired metatarsal index.

Therefore, our study aims to answer the following questions: (1) Is the Scarf procedure able to restore the function of the previously deformed forefoot and improve the pain situation?; (2) Will mobility of patients be improved as indicated by an improved walking capacity postoperatively?; (3) Will the Scarf osteotomy correct radiographic parameters, ie, hallux valgus, intermetatarsal angle, and tibial sesamoid position?; (4) Will hallux loading be improved and lateralization of forefoot loading be reduced after surgery?; and (5) Does the length of the second meta-tarsal affect the loading characteristics of the central fore-foot and is there a relationship between other radiographic or clinical parameters and foot loading?


We prospectively evaluated and followed 32 patients (31 women, one man) with unilateral hallux valgus who had Scarf osteotomies from January 1999 to May 2002 (Table 1). All osteotomies for unilateral hallux valgus were performed by one surgeon (CK). The contralateral feet had no problems and were not indicated for surgery. All patients reported pain and/or paresthesias in the forefoot, especially near the first metatarsophalangeal joint. They also reported problems with wearing offthe-rack shoes. Six patients also had metatarsalgia. Our indications for a Scarf osteotomy included a hallux valgus deformity combined with a metatarsus primus varus. Only patients with a hallux valgus angle of as much as 60° and an intermetatarsal angle of 10°-22° had surgery. Exclusion criteria included substantial degenerative changes of the first metatarsophalangeal joint or the metatarsocuneiform joint. The average age of the patients at surgery was 54.1 ± 12.3 years (range, 32-78 years) (Table 1).

Anthropometric Patient Characteristics

We performed a typical z-shaped osteotomy in the first meta-tarsal. The plantar segment was laterally transposed and fixed with two threaded 1.6-mm Kirschner wires. An Akin osteotomy was performed in 30 patients when indicated (the criterion was a hallux interphalangeus). An additional lateral release and me-dial soft tissue procedure were performed in all patients. Postoperatively, the patients were mobilized with full weightbearing in a stiff-soled surgical shoe for 6 weeks. Patients were able to receive early rehabilitation because the Scarf osteotomy initially is more stable than a distal or proximal osteotomy.15,18

At followup, we assessed the cosmetic appearance of the scar and bunion, and subjective pain during walking using visual analog scales with values ranging from 0 (positive) to 10 (negative).8,18 We also took photographs to visually inspect the cosmetic results (Fig 1). The maximum preoperative and postoperative walking durations were determined by asking the patient.

Fig 1A
Fig 1A:
B. (A) Preoperative and (B) postoperative photographs show the cosmetic result and healed scar of a patient's foot after the correction.

We used the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society (AOFAS) score for the clinical evaluation.11 This widely accepted score (maximum, 100 points) for functional evaluation of the forefoot assesses pain, activity level, footwear, range of motion (ROM) in the metatarsophalangeal and interphalangeal joints, joint stability, and callus formation.

We took weightbearing dorsoplantar (with 15° angulation) and lateral view radiographs preoperatively and postoperatively (Fig 2). The hallux valgus angle and intermetatarsal angle were determined according to Venning and Hardy.19 The position of the tibial sesamoid was determined according to Hardy and Clapham.6

Fig 2A
Fig 2A:
C. (A) Preoperative and (B) postoperative AP and (C) lateral radiographs show successful correction of the first ray with reduction of the hallux angle from 32° preoperatively to 6° postoperatively. Furthermore, the pin in the metatarsal shaft for fixation of the Akin osteotomy can be seen.

Pedographic measurements were performed the day before surgery and repeated during the followup. We used a capacitive pressure distribution platform embedded flush in the floor of the gait lab (emed ST-4, novel GmbH, Munich, Germany). The platform incorporated 2736 sensors in an active sensor area of 360 × 190 mm (resulting in a spatial resolution of four sensors/cm2). It sampled with a frequency of 50 Hz and was calibrated in a pressure range of 1-127 N/cm2. Postoperatively, five repeated trials were collected from each foot. However, only three measurements were available preoperatively. Patients were asked to approach the platform with at least three steps covering the distance of approximately 3 m to the platform. They were instructed to keep their gait velocity constant. Plantar pressure patterns were analyzed with a commercial software package (database version M-13.1.16, novel GmbH). The footprint was subdivided into 10 regions using the masking tool of the software: hallux, second toe, lateral toes, metatarsal heads (1-5), midfoot, and heel. We then determined peak pressure, maximum force, and impulse.

The parameters were averaged across repeated trials, and comparisons between preoperative and postoperative values were tested for significance with the Wilcoxon signed-rank test for repeated measurements (StatView version 5.0, SAS Institute Inc, Cary, NJ). The significance level was set at p < 0.05. Correlation coefficients of r > 0.3494 were significant for a sample of 32 patients.


The postoperative AOFAS score of 89 points (of 100) indicated an acceptable functional restoration of the fore-foot. Subcategories of the score revealed a low pain level of 1.5 (on a scale from 0 to 10) which, unfortunately, had not been assessed preoperatively.

Preoperatively, 26 patients (81.2%) reported limited walking capacity because of forefoot deformity, and 20 (62.5%) could not walk for 60 minutes. At followup, 22 patients (68.8%) did not feel limited and all patients were able to walk for at least 60 minutes.

The hallux valgus angle was reduced (p < 0.0001) from 32.5° preoperatively to 6.2° postoperatively, and the inter-metatarsal angle was reduced from 15.5° preoperatively to 6.6° postoperatively. The radiographically determined position of the tibial sesamoid improved (p < 0.0001) from a position of 5.7 preoperatively to a position of 3.3 postoperatively, with 3 to 4 being the normal sesamoid position, 1 to 2 being the position for a medialized sesamoid, and 5 to 7 being the position for a lateralized sesamoid (Table 2).

Clinical and Radiographic Results

Postoperatively, patients had a fairly normal pressure distribution pattern with physiologic foot-loading (Table 3). The greatest pressures were under the second meta-tarsal head and the hallux, followed by the third metatarsal and first metatarsal. The impulse values indicated that the heel region bore the predominant loading, followed by the regions of the first, second, and third metatarsal head, with the hallux bearing less than 10% of the total impulse. Compared to the preoperative pressures, the postoperative pressure patterns revealed increased loading under the me-dial forefoot (force, p < 0.0001; impulse, p = 0.0049) and the hallux (force, p < 0.0001; impulse, p = 0.0003), and an unloading under the lateral forefoot (impulse, p = 0.0308). The changes were most pronounced in the maximum force (Fig 3) and the impulse under the respective regions.

Regional Peak Pressure, Impulse and Maximum Force Measurements*
Fig 3
Fig 3:
A graph shows the regional force changes in the surgically treated feet. The asterisks above the bars indicate differences between preoperative and postoperative values.

We found a relationship between overall patient satisfaction and postoperative pain (r = 0.549) and postoperative hallux valgus angle (r = 0.443) (Table 4); patients with lower hallux valgus angles were more satisfied. Increased load under the first metatarsal did not correlate with the AOFAS score or patient satisfaction. The extent of the postoperative hallux valgus angle was related (r = 0.370) to off-loading of the first ray (postoperative hallux valgus angle and impulse; postoperative hallux valgus angle and peak pressure r = 0.354), and the load transfer correlated with the degree of hallux valgus angle correction. Longer second metatarsals were related (r = 0.428) to greater peak pressures.

Correlation Coefficients for Selected Parameters


Our results suggest that patients with hallux valgus treated with a Scarf osteotomy achieved a good postoperative AOFAS score and good restoration of ROM and foot function. The pedographic measurements revealed more physiologic foot-loading at followup, particularly in the forefoot and hallux regions. Patient satisfaction was related to the postoperative hallux valgus angle and the extent of medial load shift.

Our study has several limitations. We did not obtain preoperative AOFAS scores, therefore, we could not ascertain changes in clinical outcome. The gait velocity at the time of the preoperative and postoperative measurements was greater after surgery. This could explain some of the differences in the pedographic patterns with respect to a medial shift of the load in the forefoot.17

There are numerous studies on the Scarf osteotomy.1,5,8,12,14-16,18,21,22 Some authors describe modifications to the original technique1,15,16,18,22 applicable to patients with more severe hallux valgus.14,18 The advantage of the Scarf osteotomy is that hallux valgus angles of as much as 60° and intermetatarsal angles as much as 22° may be corrected with the stable fixation necessary for early functional rehabilitation.1,5,8,12,14-16,18,21,22 The potential disadvantage is the technical demand which is reflected in a relatively high complication rate (range, 4-45%).3,16 Because of the accompanying soft tissue procedure,1 there is also a certain risk of neurovascular damage (5-12%) that may lead to loss of sensation or even metatarsal head necrosis.3,16,18 Our complication rate (12.5%) compared well with the rates (12-14.5%) reported in other studies.8,15,21

The favorable results were reflected in the overall patient satisfaction, as 90.6% of the patients opted to have this type of surgery again. Our data are comparable to those in the literature.7,8,14,15 Jones et al reported 92% patient satisfaction8 and Perugia et al reported 80% patient satisfaction.14 The average AOFAS score was 89 points, which was toward the higher end of reported scores (7618-9316 points).

The correction to a postoperative hallux valgus angle of 6.2° was more pronounced than reported angles of 18.8°21 and 13.4°.12 However, this approach may cause a slight risk of overcorrection (observed in two patients). The change in the intermetatarsal angle to 6.6° and the change in the tibial sesamoid position to 3.3° reflects reported physiologic values.5,12

Plantar pressure measurements only recently have been used to evaluate followup after hallux valgus therapy. The first reports were published after Chevron osteotomies.2,9,10 Waldecker20 evaluated patients with hallux valgus and compared their plantar pressure patterns with patterns of a group of subjects without foot problems. Patients in the hallux valgus group had increased loading of the lateral forefoot and a load reduction under the medial fore-foot compared with the control subjects.20 Jones et al reported 20-month followup results of plantar pressure patterns8 and Sabo and Buchner reported 18-month followup results18 after Scarf osteotomies concentrating on changes in the forefoot and restoration of physiologic loading. Although these authors considered the results of their investigations physiologic, Jones et al found reduced loading of the first ray8 whereas Sabo and Buchner18 described increased loading. The results of our study are mostly in accordance with those of Sabo and Buchner. Our results, at an average followup of 33 months, showed a similar load transfer after surgery from the lateral to the medial fore-foot.

Successful surgery can reverse the off-loading mechanism of the first ray and achieve more physiologic load transfer.1,5,8,12,14-16,18,21,22 This is not immediately achieved postoperatively, as it is a process that may take several months to a year.1,5,8,12,14-16,18,21,22 We found the preoperative hallux valgus angle was related to off-loading of the first ray, and the load transfer was related to the degree of hallux valgus angle correction. The position of the tibial sesamoids and the intermetatarsal angle did not show any correlation to forefoot loading. A negative meta-tarsal index should be avoided because this might increase the load under the second metatarsal head, especially in patients with metatarsalgia.

Our data suggest the Scarf osteotomy normalizes the function of the hallux during the roll-over. Postoperatively, the hallux appeared more involved during push-off as reflected in the increased force and impulse of the hallux region. The patients with mild hallux varus and fore-foot pain had similar plantar pressure patterns compared with the other patients.

The Scarf osteotomy is well suited for correcting severe hallux valgus deformities. In addition to clinical and radiographic parameters, the pedographic analyses enabled us to objectively evaluate the complex postoperative changes. The most apparent indications for plantar loading changes were detected with maximum force and impulse parameters. In essence, the Scarf osteotomy seems to restore more physiologic loading of the affected foot.


We thank Novel GmbH for technical support during the measurements.


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