Bunion Surgery - Treatment, Rehab, and Possible Complications

 Emma Kalman
  Oct 18, 2018

A bunion is a foot deformity which forms at the base of the big toe. It creates a union with a bone called the first metatarsal. Bunions are often very painful and can prevent you from wearing shoes comfortably. The first treatment methods should be simple before considering any invasive options. However, if simple home treatments are not able to relieve your symptoms, a bunion removal surgery may be required. A surgical intervention will be able to accomplish two things:

  • Restore normal alignment and mechanics of the foot

  • Remove painful prominences and prevent their recurrence

Bunion Surgery

It’s very rare to be able to simply shave off the bunion. It might seem like the logical option, to just remove the bump which forms at the start of the big toe. But this method is rarely effective at fixing the problem of a bunion deformity. The problem with this method is that the bunion will return over time.

A proper bunion treatment consists of breaking the toe bone (metatarsal) to fix the alignment issue which caused the buinion to form. This phase of the procedure is called an osteotomy. Bunion surgery also includes the tightening of ligaments on the outside of the toe and loosening of the ligaments on the inside. This ensures that the toe will be pointing in the proper direction. Some surgeons may opt to use plates, pins, or screws to hold the broken bone during healing. Others don’t use anything to hold the bone in place for healing.

Following the surgery, you need special foot protection to allow the broken bone to heal and the inflammation to recede. Depending on your individual situation, the use of immobilization and/or crutches may be used.

Complications of Surgery

The surgery comes with a few possible complications, which include:

  • A possible return of the bunion in the long-term: The risk of this increases if there is an improper correction of the original deformity. As we already discussed above, if the bunion is just shaved off, it will most likely return. That is why a more comprehensive surgery is usually needed. A highly experienced foot doctor will be able to decide on the proper extent of the surgery.

  • Overcorrecting the deformity: There are instances where a surgery fixes the problem but subsequently causes a new problem with the shape of the toe. One of those possible problems is hallux varus, which is where the big toe points inward.

  • Nerve injury: The sides of our toes have nerves which give sensation to the tip of the toes. The surgical incision is located close to where the incision for bunion surgery is made and can be damaged or stretched during surgery causing numbness of the toes.

  • Infection: Infections occur more often than people may think. Foot surgeries are also very prone to this since the healing on the foot can be hampered by weight-bearing, footwear, and infection.

  • Malunion and nonunion: When the bones don’t heal after an osteotomy and realignment, nonuinon may occur. The best method of prevention is to limit physical activity following the surgery. However, there are other factors that may cause the development of a malunion or nonunion after surgery.

Patients should also keep in mind that after a bunion correction is performed, the width of the forefoot won’t change dramatically. On average, the change in forefoot width is just a small fraction of an inch. So if you want to perform bunion surgery because you wish to wear slimmer shoes, you might be disappointed by the outcome.

Rehab After Bunion Surgery

Following a bunion surgery, you will need to wear special shoes to minimize the pressure on the healing bone. Many people choose to use crutches until the initial pain recedes. Bunion surgery can require up to three months or more to fully heal and can be quite uncomfortable. So before proceeding, it’s best to consult with a foot doctor to see if it’s the right choice for you.

Bunion Surgery - Treatment, Rehab, and Possible Complications

Emma Kalman

Emma is a passionate writer with a love for health, research, and writing. Therefore, she strives to provide people with educational information for a healthier life.

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