What is a Bunionectomy?

Bunion removal, also called a bunionectomy, is a procedure in which the doctor removes a swelling or thickening on your big toe joint called a bunion. The doctor may also straighten your toe if necessary.

Effects of Bunionectomy

Surgery is recommended to correct the deformity, reconstruct the bones and joint, and restore normal, pain-free function. Through bunionectomy, walking will be more comfortable, your shoes may fit better, and your toe won’t hurt.

Candidates for Bunionectomy

Patients who have difficulty walking due to bunions are advised to undergo this procedure.

Your Consultation

Your Board Certified Surgeon will check for past illnesses and may have special tests to make sure that you are well prepared and that you can have the operation as safely as possible. Many hospitals now run special pre-admission clinics that you can visit a few weeks or so before the operation.

The Bunionectomy Procedure

A general anaesthetic will put you to sleep for the whole operation. Your toe will be straightened by breaking the bone and moving your toe into a new position. This is called an osteotomy. A cut is made over the top of your abnormal joint. The bony lump on the side of the joint is then removed. A bone in your foot is cut and your toe moved into a better position. The bones may, or may not, be held with a screw or special staple until they heal together. The skin wound is then closed up with stitches. A plaster cast is put on your foot to hold your big toe in its new position. You will be in hospital either just for the day of the operation or for one more day.

Recovery

Most people recover completely from the surgery. A plaster is usually cast on the treated foot which may be painful for a while after the surgery. You can be given injections or tablets to help make the pain tolerable. Patients are advised to keep the foot propped up and protected from pressure, weight, and injury while it heals. Complete recovery may require 3 to 5 weeks.

Risks

While it is rare that you can develop an infection in the area of the operation, should an infection occur, this can be settled by taking antibiotics for a few days. Also rarely, a nerve or a blood vessel can be damaged during the operation and you might need another operation to fix the problem. The bones may not join together firmly. If this occurs, a further operation may be necessary.

Other risks for bunion surgery include the following:

  • Numbness over the big toe
  • Wound breakdown
  • Recurrence of deformity

FAQs

What is a bunion?

There are a number of non-surgical treatment methods like therapy, medicine, splinting, casting, gentle stretching and observation.

What happens during a bunionectomy?

Surgical removal of a bunion is usually done while the patient is under general anesthesia (asleep and pain-free) and rarely requires a hospital stay. An incision is made along the bones of the big toe into the foot. The deformed joint and bones are repaired, and the bones are stabilized with a pin and/or cast.

Are there alternatives to bunionectomy?

Most people try pads from the chemists or the chiropodists before seeing an orthopaedic surgeon. If the pads have not helped, and your toe is painful, probably the best plan is to straighten your toe. You should not have the operation just to make your feet look better.

What happens after the procedure?

You may go home the same day or you may stay in the hospital for a day, depending on your condition. You will limit your walking for 2 or more weeks. You will probably wear a brace, special shoe, or cast to help support the toe and foot. Your toe may be painful for a few months.

What is the purpose of a bunionectomy?

A bunionectomy is performed when conservative means of addressing the problem, including properly fitting, wide-toed shoes, a padded cushion against the joint, orthotics, and anti-inflammatory medication, are unsuccessful. As the big toe moves sideways, it can push the second toe sideways as well. This can result in extreme deformity of the foot, and the patient may complain not only of significant pain, but of an inability to find shoes that fit.

What causes bunions?

Bunions become more common later in life. One reason is that with age the foot spreads and proper alignment is not maintained. In addition, the constant friction of poorly fitting shoes against the big toe joint creates a greater problem over time. Ignoring the problem in its early stages leads to a shifting gait that further aggravates the situation.