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Bunion Surgery

Bunion Surgery: Treatment, Rehab, and Possible Complications

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Updated June 10, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Surgical bunion treatment may be needed if simple treatments are not adequate to relieve your symptoms. Surgical treatment should accomplish two goals:
  • Restore the normal alignment and mechanics of the foot

  • Removing painful prominences and prevent their recurrence

Bunion Surgery

Rarely, the bunion can simply be shaved off, but usually the surgical treatment of a bunion is more extensive--otherwise the bunion will simply return over time.

Bunion surgery usually involves breaking the toe bone (metatarsal) to correct the alignment problem that caused the bunion to form, this part of the procedure is called an osteotomy. The surgery also involves tightening the ligaments on the outside of the toe, and loosening of the ligaments on the inside, so the tension on the ligaments holds the toe pointing in the proper direction. Some surgeons opt to use pins, plates, or screws to hold the broken bone while it is healing. Others opt to allow the bone to heal without metal holding the position.

After surgery, the foot must be protected to allow the broken bone to heal, and the inflammation to subside. The use of immobilization and/or crutches will depend on the particular procedure that needs to be performed. There are variations of how and where to break the bone depending both on surgeon preference and the severity of the deformity.

Complications of Surgery

Possible complications of surgery include:
  • Recurrence of the bunion months or years down the road

  • Inadequate correction

  • Overcorrection of the deformity (hallux varus -- the big toe points inward)

  • Nerve injury, can cause numbness of the toes

  • Infection

Rehab After Bunion Surgery

After bunion surgery, patients wear a special post-operative shoe to prevent pressure on the healing bone. Most people will use crutches, at least until the initial pain has subsided. Bunion surgery can be quite uncomfortable, and may require about 3 months or more to completely heal.

Sources:

Mann, R. "Disorders of the First Metatarsophalangeal Joint" J. Amer Acad Orthop Surg; Vol 3, No 1 1995; p 34-43.

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