Many have heard the term bunion, or heard others complain about painful bunions, but that does not always imply that the medical definition is known or fully understood. For those suffering from painful bunions or requiring surgery for bunions, it may be said the true understanding only comes with experience. However, bunion surgery is becoming more and more commonplace. A basic knowledge of the working of the foot and what to expect after bunion surgery may be helpful for both patient and caregiver.
By definition, a bunion is a type of foot deformity where the big toe turn outward. The first joint, where the toe meets the foot, turns out while the tip of the toe turns into the other toes. The now outward turned joint is made of soft tissue and bone and over time may be subjected to additional wear and tear, and with this, may become larger in size. This prominent and enlarged joint, which is considered deformed due to its outward turn, is the bunion.
Bunions are mainly caused by the wearing of ill fitting and narrow toed shoes over long periods of time. In a minority of cases, bunions are due to joint diseases such as arthritis or to hereditary causes. Knowing that ill fitting and narrow toed shoes are the most common culprit, bunion surgery it is not shocking to learn that most sufferers of bunions are women. High heels, narrow toed shoes and shoes that are too tight or too small are often the culprit. For some podiatry patients, bunion pain and relief can come from non surgical remedies, but for others, surgery is a must.
Cues that surgery is the recommended course of action may include pain that is not alleviated with non surgical measures, a big toe that is overlapping the smaller toes, constant and consistent pain that affects mobility, decrease in foot motion. Depending on the cause and severity of the bunion, the surgeon will determine the proper type of bunion surgery. There are six main types of bunion surgery: osteotomy, resection anthroplasty, exostectomy, arthrodesis, tendon/ligament repair. Regardless of the type, surgery for bunions is driven by the cause to relieve pain, correct deformity and realign the joint as needed.
Typically the surgery is performed as an outpatient surgery and the medical team will determine if local or general anesthesia is needed. Once the surgery is complete, there is normally a brief recovery in the hospital before heading home. The surgeon will normally prescribe several homecare routines, which will normally include instructions on changing the dressing, staying off the foot, pain medication, when shoes may be worn again and even some home exercises. Post surgery there are normally visits to the surgeon’s office to assess the healing and progress of the realigned joint.
Bunion surgery does not have a high occurrence of complications, but they may occur. Typically they are related to poorly maintained dressings or reactions to pain medications. Once the surgery is over and the healing begun, the surgeon and podiatrist will evaluate the approval for return to normal activities such as sports, wearing fashion shoes, etc. Of course, as with any medical condition or concern, surgery for bunions should always be discussed with a medical professional and no treatment undergone without such a conversation.