A bunionectomy is a surgical procedure to remove a bunion. A bunion, also known as hallux valgus, is a bony projection affecting the joint at the base of the big toe. The condition causes pain and stiffness in the foot and deformity of the big toe.
Diagnostic tests will be completed including X-rays and blood and urine studies. Your surgeon may suggest that you have a visit with your family doctor to prepare for your upcoming surgery. Work with your doctor to think ahead about your rehabilitation time after surgery. You may need to have some additional help at home for a few weeks.
Arrive at the doctor's office, outpatient surgical center or hospital a couple of hours before your surgery. The nurse may give you an intravenous (IV) line so you can receive fluids and medications. You will be sedated with general anesthesia. You will also receive an injection to numb the area where the surgery will take place.
After the anesthesia takes effect, the doctor will probably use one of two common techniques. In each case, an incision will be made in the skin over the bunion. The bone is then cut or filed away and removed. Tendons (bands of tissue attaching muscle to bone) are cut and the toe is moved into alignment with the other toes. Metal pins are then inserted to hold the toe in place and will not be removed until the bone heals. The incision is sutured together and a dressing is applied. The procedure usually lasts between one and two hours.
Barring any complications, you will likely go home the same day. Plan ahead for someone to drive you home. Medications will continue for about a day to help reduce the risk of infection and control pain. Most patients do have some pain following surgery while the tissues heal.
You will be able to walk after the procedure using crutches or a walker. Avoid placing weight on the affected foot until cleared by your surgeon. Some patients return to work immediately. Most require three to five days off. Avoid driving for at least four days following surgery. Complete recovery usually takes about six weeks. If needed, your doctor will assist you with initiating physical therapy to speed your recuperation.
It is essential that you follow your doctor's instructions to prevent the problem from returning. In general, you should wear wide-toed shoes that fit well and have good arch support. Small, ring-shaped bunion pads can also reduce rubbing from your shoe.
The complication rate with a bunionectomy is low. Talk with your doctor before the surgery about the risks. Some of the risks include infection, excessive bleeding, scarring, slow healing, and joint stiffness. Any of these complications can limit or prolong your recovery. Generally, bunionectomies are very effective and require no further treatment.