What is a bunion?

A bunion is a bony lump on the side of the foot at the base of the big toe.

The most common cause of bunions is footwear that does not have enough width to fit the toes in their natural position. They are occasionally associated with arthritis of the joint at the base of the big toe.

What does the operation involve?

The operation may involve removing the bunion, releasing or tightening ligaments, realigning your big toe, stiffening a joint and straightening your smaller toes.

The operation usually takes 30 minutes to an hour. Various anaesthetic techniques are possible. You should be able to go home the same day or the day after.

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How soon will I recover from bunion surgery?

You should spend most of the time during the first week with your leg raised so that the swelling settles. Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

It can take six weeks or longer before the swelling has gone down enough for you to wear a normal soft shoe.

Are there any alternatives to bunion surgery?

Putting padding over the bunion or a spacer between your big toe and second toe can help.

Using wide-fitting shoes from a good-quality shoe shop may be enough. If not, the orthotics department at the hospital will be able to give you advice about special shoes.

Bunion surgery at The Horder Centre

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon Andrew Skyrme talks about the different surgery options for bunions.

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What complications can happen?

General complications

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Infection of the surgical site (wound)
  • Unsightly scarring
  • Blood clots
  • Difficulty passing urine

Specific complications

  • Damage to nerves
  • Problems with bone healing
  • Loss of movement in the big toe
  • Severe pain, stiffness and loss of use of the foot (complex regional pain syndrome)
  • Pain in the ball of the foot
  • The deformity coming back

Information leaflet

This document is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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Acknowledgements
Mr Stephen Milner DM FRCS (Tr. & Orth.)
Medical Illustration Copyright © Medical-Artist.com
Copyright © 2019 EIDO Healthcare Limited
The operation and treatment information on this webpage is produced using information from EIDO Healthcare Ltd and is licensed by the Horder Centre. The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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