Bunion correction is one of the most common surgical consultations we see in our office. Surgical correction of a bunion deformity involves removing the bunion bump and re positioning the bones around the great toe with screws, wires, or plates so that the great toe can be re aligned into a straight position. Often these surgical consultations begin with the patient expressing concerns about the post-operative period. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about the recovery process after bunion surgery. Hopefully we can help to shed some light on some of these peri operative concerns…
Immobilization: The vast majority of patients will be able to bear weight on the corrected foot the same day without crutches! Patients will use a walking boot or stiff soled surgical shoe for the first several weeks and can expect to be back in sneakers around 6-8 weeks post operatively.
Scarring: It is true that any surgical incision will create some scarring of the skin. However, we appreciate that there is a cosmetic element to bunion surgery, and we are as minimalist as possible with our incisions. Additionally, we close our incisions meticulously with techniques employed by plastic surgeons. The end result is minimal scarring!
Swelling: Post-operative swelling, also called “edema”, can set in shortly after the surgery and persist for some time. Gravity may cause fluid to accumulate in the foot and exacerbate this post-operative swelling. It is critical to keep the operative foot elevated above the heart after the surgery to minimize swelling. Additionally, we provide our patients with an ice machine post operatively. This machine minimizes edema by both compressing and cooling the foot.
Metal Implants: Bunion surgery often involves use of pins or screws to fixate the bones in their corrected positions. These metallic implants rarely cause any symptoms post operatively. However, some patients do not like the idea of having a retained metal implant in their feet. For these individuals, we use specialized screws that are designed to be removed 2-3 months after the initial surgery. The end result is a surgically corrected bunion without any retained metal implants.
Post Operative Pain: As with any surgery, some post operative pain is to be expected after bunion surgery. Pain often occurs 2-3 days after the procedure as swelling sets in. Our patients experience very minimal pain that can be managed with most over the counter medications such as Tylenol or Advil. This is because of our smaller incisions, meticulous dissection, and reduction of post operative swelling by dispensing an ice machine to all of our surgical patients.
There is no one size fits all approach for bunion surgery. We take into account the severity of the bunion deformity as well as the patient’s overall goals before devising the appropriate surgical plan. Any surgery has inherent risks, but the doctors of Advanced Podiatry have worked hard to mitigate these potential issues to make the recovery process as smooth as possible for our patients.