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What are bunions?

Bunions (hallux valgus in medical terms) are a bony deformity of the joint at the base of the big toe. The main sign of a bunion is the big toe pointing towards the other toes on the same foot. Surgery is often considered the best option to correct the deformity and also prevents progression which may result in further deformity of the smaller toes.

What are the symptoms of bunions?

  • Hard lumps on the side of your feet by your big toes
  • A big toe pointing outwards towards your other toes
  • Red, hard or swollen skin over the lump
  • Pain along the side or bottom of your feet which is worse when walking
  • Deformity of second toe due overcrowding

When should I seek treatment for bunions?

There are many things which can be done to alleviate the pain and discomfort of bunions, including using bunion pads, avoiding shoes with a pointed toe, wearing wide shoes with low heels, losing weight and taking ibuprofen or paracetamol.

You should see your GP if:

  • You have gone several weeks using home care techniques and the pain has not improved
  • You cannot go about your normal activities
  • Your bunions are getting worse
  • You have diabetes

Your GP may refer you for surgery if they think your bunions are having an adverse effect on your life – they will not refer you for NHS treatment for cosmetic reasons.

What is bunion removal surgery?

There are several procedures available to correct bunions and the decision depends on the severity and your consultant’s preference. The aim is to correct the deformity through trimming the bunion, addressing the soft tissue imbalance and if required, breaking the bone for better correction.

Surgery takes place under general anaesthetic as a day surgery procedure, which means you can go home on the day of your surgery once you have recovered from the anaesthetic.

How long does bunion removal surgery take?

Bunion surgery takes no more than an hour to complete. After the operation your toes might feel weaker or stiffer than before and they may not be perfectly straight. You may have a bandage which is part of the treatment and must be kept dry at all times. You should stay off your feet as much as possible and depending on type of surgery you may need an orthopaedic boot.

What happens after bunion removal surgery?

After your operation, you should avoid driving for six to eight weeks, stay off work for six to 12 weeks (longer if your job is manual or requires you to be on your feet for long periods) and make a gradual return to sport after three months. Bunions can sometimes return after surgery and know one knows the cause of bunions or why they cannot always be prevented. Well-fitting shoes with room for your toes help, as does avoiding high heels and pointed toes.

What are the risks and complications of bunion removal surgery?

Risks are minimal. Potential risks are those related to all types of surgery including infection, nerve and blood vessel and deep vein thrombosis. Risks specific to bunion surgery include stiffness and pain.

Pre-operative assessment:

A pre-operative assessment is our opportunity to ensure that the procedure for which you have been referred is right for you. We’ll explain your treatment to you and makes sure that you are well enough to go ahead with it. It is also your opportunity to meet the team who will care for you and to ask any questions.

We carry out all the necessary tests and examinations in one outpatient session. While this may take several hours, everything is done in one go to save frequent visits before surgery.

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