Surgery to Treat Bunions

Bunions worsen over time unless the problem that produces them is eliminated. If a bunion causes severe discomfort, a surgical procedure called a bunionectomy may be performed. Surgical techniques vary, depending on the angle of the bones in the bunion and the extent of the deformity.

The simplest procedure involves shaving the bump and repairing the soft tissue in the big toe joint. Bunions that cause severe discomfort usually require more correction than this procedure provides.

In these cases, the most common technique involves surgically fracturing and realigning the bones of the big toe. In another procedure, a wedge-shaped piece of bone from the metatarsal is removed, decreasing the toe's angle of deviation. In both procedures, the bones are repositioned and stabilized with pins, screws, plates, or wires.

Extremely loose or tight ligaments and tendons may also need to be adjusted surgically. This surgery is relatively simple, and the bones and soft tissues take 6 to 8 weeks to heal. Crutches, a walking cast, or a wheelchair may be used to keep weight off the foot during recovery.

Severe bunions on both feet require undergoing bunionectomy and recovery twice, or having both feet repaired at the same time, which results in 6 to 8 weeks of immobility. Most patients choose the former because it offers them a degree of mobility and self-sufficiency.

After surgery and recovery, the patient is fitted with orthotics to maintain stable, properly aligned feet. Without this treatment, the underlying cause of the bunion continues to cause problems and the bunion can recur.

Publication Review By: Hai-En Peng, D.P.M.

Published: 31 Dec 1999

Last Modified: 17 Sep 2015