A bunion is a deformity at the base of the big toe caused by a progressive misalignment of the bone. It most commonly results from inherited structural problems within the foot. Most bunions do not require surgical treatment, but in some cases persistent pain makes surgery a suitable option. Bunion surgery is typically performed by a musculoskeletal (orthopedic) surgeon with special training in problems of the foot and ankle.
Prior to Surgery
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, your doctor may recommend you for bunion surgery if more conservative treatment options are ineffective. Typically, this recommendation is based on unaddressed pain that makes serious disruptions to your daily routine. Prior to scheduling any procedure, your orthopedic surgeon will review your medical history and make a thorough physical examination of your bunion. Based on these findings, as well as extensive experience in the behavior of bone and muscle in the foot, he will work to uncover the particular structural flaw responsible for your bunion formation. This information is vital in planning a surgical procedure that fits your circumstance. Failure to use an appropriate surgical technique can result in a recurrence of your bunion at some point in the future.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, there are more than 100 surgical methods of repairing a bunion. Factors that affect the choice of method include the results of your physical exam, and your age and activity level. Regardless of the particular approach used, your surgeon will have several overall treatment goals, including removal of the characteristic bunion bump and correction of any harmful changes in your bone structure or soft tissue. Together, these steps will typically provide sufficient pain relief to allow a return to normal activity. Typically, bunion surgeries are performed on an outpatient basis. In most cases, you will receive a local anesthetic that will allow you to remain awake during the procedure.
Most bunion surgeries involve a technique called a bunionectomy. In this procedure, your orthopedic surgeon will remove any swollen tissue from the base of your big toe, then straighten your toe by shaving away part of its underlying bone. Next, he will realign your toe in relation to its neighboring toes and permanently fix your big toe joint in the realigned position.
Depending on the type of procedure your orthopedic surgeon performs, you may expect to recover from surgery in as little as a few days or as long as eight weeks. Most bunion surgeries are quite successful in reducing pain and correcting structural problems. However, you will need to follow lifelong restrictions on your choice of footwear and take other cautionary measures. Consult your orthopedic surgeon for more details on any procedure he may decide to perform.