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Background: Osteoarthritis of the first metatarsophalangeal joint (hallux rigidus) leads to pain and poor function and mobility. Arthrodesis is the gold standard treatment for end-stage disease. Total joint arthroplasties have been attempted, but early loosening has been attributed to dorsally directed shear forces on the metatarsal component. Metallic proximal phalangeal hemiarthroplasty theoretically avoids this. Whilst early results are promising, no comparative trials exist comparing this to arthrodesis.Methods/Design: The primary objectives are to determine the range of outcome scores between the two treatment arms (to inform a power calculation). Outcome measures will include the MOXFQ, AOFAS-Hallux and EuroQol EQ-5D-5 L. Secondary objectives are to determine the accrual rate, dropout rate and trial acceptability to both patients and surgeons. These data will allow the development of a larger trial with longer follow-up.This is a prospective randomised controlled single-centre study comparing proximal phalanx hemiarthroplasty (AnaToemic, Arthrex Ltd., Sheffield, UK) with arthrodesis (15 patients in each arm). Randomisation will be performed using a 1:1 allocation ratio in blocks of six.Patients meeting the eligibility criteria will be recruited from three foot and ankle consultant surgeon's clinics (East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust). If agreeable, informed consent will be obtained before patients are randomised.The outcome measure scores will be completed pre-operatively and repeated at 6 weeks, 3 months and 12 months. A radiological review will be performed at 6 weeks and 12 months to determine rates of loosening (hemiarthroplasty) and union (arthrodesis). Data on length of stay, return to work, complications and re-operation rates will also be collected.The analysis will compare the change in outcome scores between treatment groups at all follow-up time points. Scores will be compared using a Student t-test, adjusting for scores at baseline.This study will be conducted in accordance with the current revision of the Declaration of Helsinki (1996) and the ICH-GCP Guideline (International Conference on Harmonisation, Good Clinical Practice, E6(R1), 1996). This study has been approved by the sponsor, the Trust Research & Development office. Ethical approval has been received from the National Research Ethics Service (North East: 12/NE/0385 for protocol version 5.3 dated 3 June 2013).Trial registration: Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN88273654. © 2014 Divecha et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

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