How to know when you need bunion surgery

16 Aug

In a previous post, how to know when you have a bunion, we talked about the signs of a bunion, how to relieve the pain of a bunion, and how not to get a bunion in the first place (assuming it’s not genetic). Now we’re going to talk about the actual bunion surgery.

First things first – make sure that your podiatric surgeon has a strong reputation for success. Stay away from doctors who make claims like:

  • 90 percent of my patients have pain free surgery
  • My patients never require crutches
  • Surgery is performed in our own surgery center
  • I created a better bunion surgery
bunion before surgery

This patient definitely has a bunion requiring surgery. She showed little relief from changing footwear, pain medication, orthotics, or icing. Click for larger image.

To take these in order: Well yes, your bunion surgery will be pain free because you’re under anaesthesia. You’ll also receive a pain blocking medication that will last for a day or two after you go home. But after that, you will definitely feel some pain. How much depends on the severity of your bunion and how much work the surgeon did on your foot to remove the growth and straighten your toe.

In almost every case, a patient who receives a bunionectomy cannot put weight on that foot for at least a week or two after surgery. Therefore, you’ll require crutches for a short time as well as a medical boot to cushion the foot and protect it. The medical boot will stay on the foot for up to 8 weeks after surgery.

Ask a lot of questions if a physician tells you that they perform surgery in their own surgery center.  Physicians who perform surgery in the hospital must pass a credentialing process and be re-evaluated on a regular basis to perform individual surgical procedures. This insures that the surgeon is qualified to perform your bunionectomy. A physician may be deemed not qualified to perform a procedure in the hospital but this does not stop him/her from performing procedures in his/her own surgery center.

This last one is a doozy – a better bunion surgery for whom? Bunion surgery always must take into account foot shape, ligament tightness, biomechanics and other factors. There is definitely no “one size fits all” approach. Besides, if a physician did indeed develop a better bunion surgery, it would be adopted by the larger medical community.

bunion post surgery

Patient’s foot about one week after surgery. Click for larger image.

You should also be wary of any physician who wants to perform a bunionectomy too quickly. If on your first visit he/she recommends surgery, see another podiatrist for a second opinion. A competent podiatrist will always attempt to correct the bunion pain first through the use of orthotics, different footwear, icing, over the counter medications and other pain relief techniques before suggesting surgery.

If you’d like to know more about bunions, download this free booklet written by Dr. Teichman of PA Foot And Ankle Associates, the ten secrets to relieving bunion pain.

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