What is a Bunionectomy, and What Should I Expect?

Bunions are a common foot ailment. If you have a bump that juts out from the joint near your big toe, it’s likely a bunion. You may especially notice it when you wear sandals or look at your bare feet. You may even feel self-conscious about these bumps.

But aesthetics aside, bunions can also be extremely painful and prevalent. In fact, 1 in 3 Americans suffers from bunions. While they affect both genders, women are much more likely to have bunions, especially older women. One of the main treatments is a bunionectomy—so what is a bunionectomy, and what should you expect if your doctor recommends this foot procedure?

Are there Different Types of Bunions?

So you have a bunion; what does that mean? Are there different types of bunions? Generally speaking, there are four different types of bunions (or hallux valgus in medical terms):

  • Juvenile hallux valgus: a food condition with onset during the teen years.
  • Congenital hallux valgus: a foot condition from birth.
  • Bunionette, or tailor’s bunion: appears on the outside of the foot near the little toe.
  • Hallux valgus: standard bunion that appears near the big toe joint.

Bunions in most adults are the standard hallux valgus variety. The bunion occurs due to pressure and stress over time that causes the joint between the phalanges (toe bones) and metatarsals (longer foot bones) to jut out in the forefoot, widening the toe base. A bunion is a swollen bursa—the fluid-filled sac at the metatarsophalangeal joint.

Why do so many adults get bunions? In most cases, it’s due to a combination of genetics, footwear, and anatomical issues with the foot (such as flat footedness). However, bunions can also occur because of soft tissue disorders, injuries to the foot, including sprains and turf toe, and some overuse injuries due to standing for long periods.

For women, the hormones of pregnancy and menopause can cause a loosening or softening of the ligaments, which, unfortunately, can also lead to bunions. In addition, shoes with tight toe boxes like high heels and pointed-toe shoes can exacerbate bunion issues, as footwear lacking in arch support.

General Signs & Symptoms of Bunions

The first symptom of a bunion is usually some discomfort and swelling. You may notice that your feet hurt along the big toe joint after a day of walking or a night of dancing in dressy heels. A bunion may present with a burning sensation or even numbness at the toe joint. You may also notice redness, callousing, or thickening of the skin near the joint and a dull ache or burning sensation.

But the pain can worsen over time, and even breaking out your most supportive sneakers and orthopedic sandals won’t bring relief. Running, dancing, and sometimes even walking may become painful. Shoes may rub on the bunion, causing blisters and callouses and, in some cases, even becoming unwearable. Sometimes bunions can develop quickly; in other cases, it may take years before a bunion impacts your mobility.

Meeting with Your Doctor About a Bunionectomy

If your doctor has suggested that surgery is the answer to your foot pain, what is bunion surgery called? In the medical world, bunion surgery is referred to as a bunionectomy. Most doctors will try conservative treatments first unless the bunion has progressed or there are other health considerations, like stress fractures and mobility issues.

What should you expect from a bunionectomy? Well, there are several approaches to bunion removal surgery. In most cases, the goal of surgery is to relieve pain and pressure in your foot. Because the surgery will help to realign your foot bones, you will also be able to fit into your shoes more comfortably.

There are two approaches to bunion surgery:

  • ●A traditional bunionectomy, where the surgeon surgically removes the bunion and uses screws to realign the foot.
  • A non-cutting bunion surgery, where the doctor realigns bones using wires, screws, and plates.

Your doctor will determine which approach is best for your particular case.

The good news is that most bunionectomies are same-day procedures that don’t require an overnight hospital stay or general anesthesia. Your surgical team will share all the guidelines and expectations with you for same-day surgery. However, you will need someone to accompany you for the surgery and will require assistance for the first few weeks after surgery.

Healing from a bunionectomy can take between 6 and 10 weeks, depending on the procedure, your overall health, and many other factors. Once you’ve recovered, you can expect to return to the exercise and activities you once enjoyed.

At Midwest Orthopedic Specialty Hospital, it’s our goal to help you enjoy full mobility without pain. If you’re suffering from bunions or any other orthopedic concern, reach out today. We’ll help you get back on track.