When is Bunion Surgery Medically Necessary?

A bunion is a common foot problem whereby a bony bump forms on the joint at the base of your big toe. Bunions usually form gradually due to prolonged stress on the joint, but some may be inherited or result from arthritis. Fortunately, most cases of bunion pain improve with simple treatments such as wearing shoes with adequate toe room or using protective silicone pads. If the pain persists despite nonsurgical treatments, your Carmel NY podiatric foot and ankle surgeon may perform surgery to relieve pain by correcting the deformity.

Signs that you need bunion surgery

As mentioned above, surgery is usually an option if you have swelling and persistent pain despite trying out other nonsurgical treatments like changes in footwear, medicines, or rest. You may also discuss surgery with your podiatrist if you have intense foot pain when walking or wearing comfortable shoes. Your doctor may also recommend surgery if your big toe drifts toward the small ones and you can’t straighten your toe. There may be other reasons why surgery may be the needed treatment for a bunion.

What is the goal for bunion surgery?

Bunion surgery aims to alleviate pain and realign the big toe, returning it to its right position. The procedure is not for aesthetic reasons and is not meant to improve the foot’s appearance. There are several surgical procedures to correct a bunion; the type of surgery you need depends on the severity of the bunion and the condition of the bones and connective tissue. Other factors that may influence the choice of the procedure include your age, general health, and activity level.

What are the different techniques for bunion surgery?

If you have a mild bunion, your surgeon may use an exostectomy, whereby they shave off the bunion. Often, surgeons combine this approach with an osteotomy to reposition the toe by realigning the muscles, tendons, and ligaments surrounding the joint.

Osteotomy is the most common surgical approach used to treat bunions. During this procedure, the surgeon makes small incisions in the bones and removes diseased and damaged parts; a bone graft may be placed where the bone was removed. The surgeon then temporarily or permanently uses plates, rods, staples, or screws to hold the bone in place as it heals.

If the bunions stem from arthritis inflammation, the surgeon uses arthrodesis joint fusion to remove damaged parts of the big toe and hold the bones together using screws. Arthrodesis is only done on the most severe bunions.

How safe is bunion surgery?

As with any operation, bunion surgery is associated with complications such as infection, delayed healing, numbness, stiffness, and swelling. Nerve damage, continued pain, and bunion recurrence are potential risks of bunion surgery. Although rare, surgery may result in overcorrection of the deformity, in which the big toe extends away from the small toes. Depending on your overall condition, other risks may specifically apply to you, so it is best to discuss your concerns with your surgeon before the procedure.

Bunion surgery can decrease pain, help you regain foot function, and resume activities you once enjoyed.

If you have a bunion that does not improve with conservative treatments, consult your podiatrist at Kyrou Podiatry Associates to know if surgery is a good option for you.

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