Bunion Surgery

What Is a Bunion?

A bunion appears as a pronounced bump on the inner foot, where the big toe attaches to the foot. This bump grows over time, pushing the big toe toward the other toes at an angle and indicating a bigger issue: your foot bones are out of alignment! Because your tendons and ligaments aren’t working properly, they are failing to hold bones and muscles in place. As your bunion grows, your discomfort will increase.

A bunion is actually a swollen bursa, which is a firm and fluid-filled sac at the metatarsophalangeal joint. Bunions have genetic factors, but are greatly exacerbated by wearing tight shoes or high heels and standing for prolonged periods. Nine out 10 bunion sufferers are women.

Learn more about your foot’s anatomy

Symptoms of bunions include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Burning sensation
  • Redness
  • Numbness
  • Loss of flexibility in foot
  • Ingrown toenails
  • Thickening of skin of the foot

When Is Bunion Surgery Necessary?

If conservative treatments are tried and fail—or if the bunion has progressed so far that conservative treatments won’t help—surgery may be considered. Factors in considering surgery are chronic pain, considerable difficulty in walking, recurring infections, stress fractures in the foot, and the development of arthritis or gout.

Surgical Options for Treating Bunions

The goal of bunion surgery is to ease your pain and other symptoms. Bunion surgery will also improve your foot’s function by realigning its bones, tendons, nerves, and ligaments, and nerves. Of course, the removal of the bunion will also eliminate the deformed appearance of your foot and make shoe-wearing more comfortable.

Most bunion surgeries are performed on an outpatient (same-day) basis that requires neither a hospital stay nor general anesthesia.

Removing a bunion can be performed with two types of surgeries, depending on your circumstances:

Traditional Bunionectomy

This bunion surgery involves an incision on the top or side of the foot through which the bunion is accessed. During the surgery, the surgeon will remove the bunion and release tight soft tissue structures while realigning the bones of the foot – which typically entails cutting them and then securing them back into place with screws. When finished, the surgeon closes your foot incision with sutures.

You can expect a lengthy recovery that might include chronic inflammation and stiffness until your foot is fully healed.

“Non-Cutting” Bunion Surgery

New approaches to bunion surgery entail realigning the foot without cutting bones. These surgeries use special screws, plates, or wires to hold bones in position. These techniques result in less pain and complications after surgery – plus a much quicker recovery.

After Your Surgery

  • You are discharged from the hospital on the same day as the surgery
  • You will be sent home wearing a soft cast
  • Depending on the surgical approach, your doctor may prescribe pain medication for a week or two
  • You will have several follow-up appointments in the weeks after surgery to monitor your recovery
  • Crutches will be provided so that you can get around without bearing weight on your foot