Bunions must be addressed surgically if conservative treatment fails. In this case we recommend that the patient avoid minimal incision procedures as these deformities will return within 5 to 10 years.
Trust in only Milwaukee's finest podiatric surgeons for treating your bunions.
Bunion surgery is generally very successful; 90% of people who've had bunion surgery indicate significant reduction in pain and would recommend this procedure to others. Our surgical podiatrists also offer hammertoe surgery for patients who have not been helped by non-operative treatments.
The risks of surgery include infection (less than 3%), blood clot (less than 0.1%), as well as the possibility that the procedure will not relieve all of your pain. We must also take into account other etiological factors such as flatfoot deformity and equinus deformity. If these other deformities are not corrected, then the bunion deformity and further toe pain can return.
Bunion Surgery Recovery
Taking good care of your feet during the postoperative period is almost as important as the surgery. The amount of time you’ll spend recovering depends on the type of procedure you had, your general state of health going into surgery, and how well you follow your doctor’s instructions during recovery.
In most cases, your bones need to mend after bunion surgery, and recovery generally takes around six to eight weeks. This is followed by a period of rehabilitation, so don’t expect to be up to full speed for at least a few more weeks after the recovery period.
You’ll spend the first two to four weeks wearing a surgical boot to protect your foot, and you’ll also need to keep the stitches from getting wet as much as possible.
After the Boot Comes Off
Once the boot or cast comes off, you’ll need a brace to provide support while your foot heals. Your foot won’t be able to bear your full weight right away, so you’ll need to use crutches to get around (how long depends on the size of your bunion and type of surgical procedure you had). But before too long you’ll be able to gradually transition away from the crutches and back onto your feet.
However it’s best to stay off your feet as much as possible. Giving your foot plenty of rest, as well as applying ice to the area to reduce inflammation, will help speed up the healing process. Trying to walk again too soon or being eager to “rush” the healing process and get back to normal activities before your body is ready will only prolong the swelling and pain. Moving the affected joint too much, too soon, can cause extra scar tissue to form.
Most people are able to return to full activity around three to six months after surgery. If you need bunion surgery, don’t let the idea of being “laid up” or having to go through a recovery period keep you from getting the best treatment. Ask yourself: six months from now, do you still want to be living with painful bunions?
When Can I Drive Again?
Most patients want to know how soon they’ll be able to drive again. In order to drive, you’ll need to be able to stop the car in an emergency without hurting your foot. If you drive an automatic car and had surgery on your left foot only, this will clearly get you back on the road sooner. A cast or boot will impair your driving ability and present a danger to yourself and other drivers. Because every bunion surgery is different, you’ll need to ask your doctor when you’ll be able to resume driving. And remember to inform your car insurance company you’ve had surgery!
What to Expect Long-Term
You can expect to have some swelling in your foot for several months after your bunion removal surgery. It’s important to wear comfortable shoes with plenty of room and not try to force your foot back into your favorite shoes too soon. It will be at least six months before high heels are an option again. Going forward, it’s best to avoid narrow or pointy-toed shoes if you want to minimize your chances of developing future bunions.
Your doctor might recommend physical therapy treatment if you need to strengthen the muscles in your lower leg and foot. Be sure to follow all the instructions your doctor gives you so your foot heals completely and correctly!
Bunion Surgery Options
Bunions form in many different shapes and sizes, and so many different procedures have had to be developed and refined. There are dozens of different types of bunion removal procedures to banish bunions and realign your big toe.
The type of surgery your doctor will recommend depends on how your bunion developed and how severe it is. Your surgeon will talk to you about the different kinds of bunion surgeries and explain what kind is best for your feet, and why. You should also discuss any questions or concerns you have with your doctor before getting the surgery.
Common Bunion Surgeries
Some of the most common types of bunion removal procedures are osteotomy, exostectomy, and Lapidus Bunionectomy.
In an osteotomy (commonly called “bone cutting”) your surgeon makes small cuts in your big toe joint and moves the bones into a better-aligned position.
In an exostectomy, (sometimes referred to as “bunion shaving”) your surgeon removes the bunion from the toe joint but does not realign the bones. Bunion shaving is also done in combination with other procedures.
In the Lapidus Bunionectomy (known as “bone fusion”) your surgeon fuses a non-essential foot joint in order to realign the bone.
The appropriate bunion procedure will be decided by your surgeon after analyzing your X-rays. The angle between the 1st and 2nd metatarsal is of the utmost importance. This intermetatarsal angle determines that type of surgical procedure that will be performed. We also take into account the metatarsus adductus angle. Bunion procedures for children will take into account growth plates and other factors. Be sure to consult with your foot surgeon beforehand and go through the procedure in detail.
Osteotomy Bunion Surgery
An osteotomy simply means a cut in the bone. Types of osteotomies include:
- Chevron osteotomy
- Scarf osteotomy
- Akin osteotomy
- Calcaneal osteotomy
- Opening base wedge osteotomy/Closing base wedge osteotomy
Your surgical podiatrist will determine the type of procedure based on your toe position, angles and length of bones. Most osteotomies allow the patient to bear some weight on the affected foot immediately after surgery.
Lapidus Bunion Surgery
Lapidus bunion surgery involves fusion of a joint in the middle of the foot in order to place the bone in better alignment.
This fusion procedure may be chosen for patients who have a very large bunion, hypermobility syndrome (a condition where joints move beyond the normal range) or other issues.
Tightrope Bunion Surgery
Tightrope bunion surgery is a new type of bunion removal procedure. Advocates recommend it because of improved recovery time and reduced risk.
Tightrope surgery involves using a device called a tightrope to reduce and maintain the angle between two metatarsals (foot bones). In essence, surgical wire and a buttress plate are used to hold the bones in the desired position.
This procedure is not suitable for every type of bunion, so consult your podiatrist to find out if it’s right for you.
Bunion Keyhole Surgery
Keyhole bunion surgery is a minimally invasive procedure. The surgery is done making only very small incisions (measured in millimeters). An X-ray machine and specialized surgical tools are used.
Less cutting of the skin and soft tissues of the foot can reduce scarring and recovery time, but this type of procedure is not suitable for large deformities.
Bunion Surgery Risks
Risks and complications from bunion removal surgery are low but do occur. They include:
- Potential recurrence
- Over or under-correction
The good news is hardware used to correct bunions rarely needs to be removed. Patients who’ve undergone a bunionectomy may also experience prolonged swelling as the affected skin and bone continue to remodel over many months.
Bunion Surgery Recovery
Bunion surgery recovery time varies greatly depending on the type of surgery, general health of the patient and many other factors.
In general, recovery time from an osteotomy is about 4-6 weeks. This means returning to wearing a regular shoe, however it may be longer until you are able to return to running or other high impact activities. Many people require several months to be back to 100%.
Recovery time for a lapidus bunion surgery is longer compared to an osteotomy. There is usually a non-weight-bearing period for several weeks followed by protected weight bearing for an additional 4-6 weeks. Full recovery is on average 3 months.
Worried about scars? Our experienced surgical podiatrists will do everything possible to minimize the appearance of scars from bunion surgery. You can look forward to wearing your favorite sandals again without worrying about drawing unwanted attention to your feet.
Bunion Surgery Cost
The cost of a bunionectomy is relatively low compared to other surgeries. For a cost estimate and answers to questions about insurance coverage and bunion surgery, please contact one of our Milwaukee area podiatry clinics.
We will do everything we can to make bunion treatments accessible to every patient, regardless of their financial situation. Our staff and doctors will be happy to answer your questions.
Learn More About Bunion Surgery
If you have chronic bunion pain or severe deformity in your foot, make an appointment and talk to one of our board certified physicians. Our experienced specialists work out of 4 offices in the Milwaukee area. We'll examine your feet, explain your treatment options and answer your questions. At Advanced Foot & Ankle of Wisconsin, we put the care back into patient care.