Doctors have performed life-changing surgery on a young man born with nine toes on one foot after his superstitious parents made him live with the "lucky" deformity for over two decades.

The 21-year-old patient named only as Ajun said the four extra toes on his left foot caused him so much stigma that he stopped wearing sandals at the age of 10 and never asked a girl out on a date.

The native of Lufeng City in South China's Guangdong Province said his parents were immediately aware of his condition as soon as he was born, but they refused to let doctors operate on him.

Ajun said his family sought the advice of a fortune teller instead, believing that his extra toes were "a gift from the heavens" which should not be removed.

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He said: "They were superstitious, so they didn't deal with it. They thought if it really looked too bad, I could just cover it with my shoes."

His superstitious parents wouldn't let him have surgery. Photo / Australscope
His superstitious parents wouldn't let him have surgery. Photo / Australscope

Seeking a reversal of fortune, Ajun sought out expert advice at Shunde Heping Surgical Hospital in the city of Foshan.

His doctor, Wu Xiang, said: "It's very rare to see such a serious deformity having not been treated in a 21-year-old patient."

Doctor Wu added: "Other hospitals would've just removed his outermost extra toes. That would've been the easiest solution, but it wouldn't look the best.

"His most natural looking toe is on the outside, so we decided to migrate it inwards to its most ideal position, replacing his fifth digit and creating a new big toe."

Doctor Wu and his team spent nine hours in surgery to create Ajun's new left foot and the young man revealed he was pleased with the results.

He said: "I stopped wearing sandals outside since my third year of primary school.

"I've never had a girlfriend because I'm so imperfect. I never thought I'd find anyone who wants to be with me.

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X-ray image of the man's deformed foot. Photo / Australscope
X-ray image of the man's deformed foot. Photo / Australscope

"Now I feel great. I'm very grateful to Doctor Wu Xiang. I think my foot is perfect. He showed me pictures of my foot after surgery, and I'm very happy."

Ajun is continuing his recovery at the hospital and is expected to be discharged in the coming weeks.

Doctor Wu said: "For children born with deformities, it's best for them to be examined three months after birth.

"Surgery can happen as early as one year old, but no later than six years old. Basically any time before they start school is fine.

"This is better for the child's psychological well-being, but earlier operations also lead to better recovery results."