What You Need to Know about Bunion Surgery
People who experience pain from a bunion often contemplate bunion surgery without knowing much about the procedure. Bunion surgery, also referred to as a bunionectomy, is a treatment option for patients who wish to relieve the symptoms commonly associated with bunions.
Although surgical approaches vary depending on the severity of the bunion and the doctor performing the procedure, a bunionectomy usually requires an incision on the top or side of the big toe joint. Doctors then remove and/or realign the bone and soft tissue to correct the bunion. Often, additional foot issues are addressed at this time as well.
Patients should only consider bunion surgery if other, non-surgical treatments have been unsuccessful. This may include wearing wider shoes, toe splints, and taking anti-inflammatory medication. If such treatments fail to reduce pain, then bunion surgery is an option. Waiting too long to have the procedure could cause additional foot deformities.
Questions Regarding Bunion Surgery
Scheduling an appointment at the Foot and Ankle Center at Orthopaedic Associates of St. Augustine is the first step. Orthopaedic surgeon, Kurtis Hort, or podiatrist, Beth Pearce, will evaluate the severity of the bunion and ask questions regarding pain. X-rays will also be taken as part of the evaluation process.
Patients typically ask a lot of questions before undergoing surgery and rightfully so because preparation can make a big difference in the recovery process. The following information will help with a lot of the questions you’re probably asking yourself:
- Surgery is typically done one foot at a time; depending on the procedure both may be done
- The actual surgery takes less than an hour
- Patients do not experience pain during surgery because a general anesthesia is used
- Patients experience minimal pain for the first 24-48 hours post-surgery due to advanced, long lasting, local pain blocks
- Pain medication will be prescribed and should be started before the block wears off
- Patients need a ride home after surgery; someone should stay with them for the first 24 hours after surgery
- Patients rarely use crutches for more than a week following surgery
- Major swelling will exist for a few weeks after surgery
- Plan your surgery date at a time when you’re not traveling anytime soon
The Recovery Process
Recovering from bunion surgery varies from patient to patient. The type of surgery, extent of the bunion, and a patient’s pain tolerance will all play a factor in the recovery process. For most patients though, placing weight on the foot will be difficult for several days and possibly weeks after surgery.
Patients will be asked to wear a surgical shoe until swelling decreases and they’re able to feel comfortable in a tennis shoe. During the first week after surgery it is important to elevate the foot as much as possible. Patients will likely experience painful throbbing if the foot is not properly elevated.
Ice should be applied every few hours to reduce swelling. Although placing weight on the foot may be painful, patients are encouraged to do so within the first few days after the procedure. There is no need to push through severe pain, but placing weight on it and walking is very important to proper recovery.
Dressing is changed weekly and stiches are removed about two weeks after surgery. Possibly the most important part of the recovery process is performing the daily foot and toe exercises given to you by your doctor. Failure to carry out these exercises may prevent you from regaining full foot and toe mobility.
Once the foot is healed properly, patients are typically quite happy with the results of their bunionectomy. The appearance of the foot is greatly improved, allowing people to wear a wider range of shoes. Most importantly, patients are able to return to their daily lives free from bunion pain!
KURTIS HORT, MD
Diplomate of the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery and a member of the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society. Dr. Hort specializes in reconstructive procedures of the foot and ankle.