The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

A Guide to the New Cartiva Toe Implants Available in NYC

Posted by on Monday, January 22nd, 2018


The field of podiatry is constantly advancing, with new and innovative solutions born to improve upon previous work. In this spirit of embracing the best cutting-edge options available, our board-certified NYC foot surgeons are now some of the first in the state and region to offer the new Cartiva toe implant. Our surgeons underwent extensive training modules and recently performed our seventh successful surgery with excellent results, particularly for treating arthritis. Many new patients are walking into our office asking about the Cartiva implant after downloading the brochure from their website, so we expect these surgeries to increase going into 2018. This is an exciting new treatment for people with arthritis, big toe pain, cartilage damage, deformity, and limited mobility.

Cartiva toe implant surgery
The Cartiva toe implant is an innovative option for patients with arthritis or similar conditions. Image Source:

How Does the Cartiva Toe Implant Work?

For years, patients with severe joint pain, bone spurs, osteoarthritis, and hallux rigidis had limited options. Until now, the “gold standard” for big toe arthritis was fusion surgery, which reduced pain but caused a complete loss of mobility in the big toe. Silicone implants were a short-term solution that would last for five to 10 years, guaranteeing the need for revision surgery down the road for most patients.

Today, there is a better option. Unlike other implant procedures, Cartiva implant surgery does not require any joint removal. This is a big step forward since previously, implants required bone removal and thus gave surgeons a very short set of bones to work with during revision or later fusion surgeries. Surgeons were forced to use bone grafts and healing times were often lengthy.

The new Cartiva implant is a revolutionary biocompatible, durable, slippery organic polymer that mimics real cartilage, with the potential to last 20 years or more. We like the FDA-approved Cartiva implant because it’s made from material similar to contact lenses, which allows patients to move freely and resume all their favorite activities once they’ve healed from surgery.

We feel comfortable using this new implant, as it’s backed by the largest comprehensive study conducted for osteoarthritis treatment. Independent, peer-reviewed research revealed a:

  • 93% reduction in pain
  • 168% functional improvement
  • 50% improved range of motion
  • Quicker recovery compared to alternative procedures

In a five-year follow-up focusing on 27 patients, radiographs showed no evidence of implant loosening, misalignment, or wear. Only one patient had the implant removed and converted to fusion two years post-op when pain persisted. Many patients returned back to athletic activities, with impressive sports performances showing the true success of the implant.

Who Should Get a Cartiva Toe Implant?

As revolutionary as Cartiva is, it’s important to remember that this type of implant may not be for everyone. Patients who may not benefit from this procedure include those with:

  • Early onset arthritis and those who experience pain from bone spurs but still have good range of motion
  • Severe arthritis or hallux rigidus deformity greater than 20 degrees
  • Past history of allergic reactions to implants
  • Foot infections
  • Gout
  • Bone fractures
  • Cancer
  • Tumor growth
  • Organ transplants
  • Hip dislocation
  • Use of steroids or immunosuppressants

We look at X-rays, clinical exam results, range of motion, and pain levels to determine who might be a good candidate for Cartiva surgery.

In case you are not qualified for the Cartiva toe implant, the Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine surgeons are also trained to perform any of the Cartiva implant alternatives, including cheilectomy, hemiarthroplasty, total joint replacement, and arthrodesis (fusion). This means our patients have a thorough range of treatment options to best treat their individual conditions.

What is Cartiva Surgery Like?

The Cartiva implant operation is done on an outpatient basis, and it takes about 30 minutes to complete. First, a 4-5 cm incision is made over the big toe joint, then any bone spurs or damaged cartilage is removed. Next, a hole is drilled into the metatarsal side of the joint. Finally, the specially-fitted Cartiva implant is pressed into the hole as a smooth, weight-bearing joint surface.

How Will You Recover From Cartiva Implant Surgery?

One of the perks of the Cartiva implant is that patients can begin active rehabilitation and range of motion exercises immediately after surgery. There is no bone cutting and healing involved, so patients can bear weight the same day of surgery. Once the stitches are removed around the twelfth day following surgery, patients can transition into comfortable sneakers or sandals if they desire. Keep in mind, though, that many patients will wear a boot for about a month due to sensitivity around the incision site. Patients can perform any activities they’re comfortable doing. Like any surgery, swelling may persist for up to 4-6 weeks. After the second post-op appointment after six weeks, more rigorous activities, like running or competitive sports practice, can typically resume.

Here at the Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine, we attend foot and ankle conferences to find the latest FDA-approved innovations that promise better outcomes for our patients. Our board-certified podiatrists are available in Manhattan and White Plains to perform cutting-edge operations such as the Cartiva toe implant. For more information or to book an appointment, contact us today.


If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.