Bunionectomy Candidates: When Is it Time for Surgical Intervention?

By Dr. Andrew Ebert on May 02, 2018

Photo of a person’s feet while they are sitting in the grassDo you have a bony bump on the outside of your big toe? Has it worsened over time, leading to pain and discomfort? You could have a bunion, which may require foot surgery to reduce discomfort and address the condition

At Orthopaedic Specialists of Austin in Austin, TX, our doctors can perform a bunionectomy to reduce the bony bump and realign your toe. Here, our team discusses bunionectomy candidates, and explores when the procedure may be beneficial to improve quality of life. 

What Causes Bunions?

If the big toe pushes against the neighboring toe, a bunion can form. There are a few different reasons why bunions develop. 

First and foremost, there is an undeniable genetic component. For example, if weak foot structure runs in the family, you have a higher chance of developing the condition. 

In some instances, patients who have one leg that is longer than the other may notice that a bunion appears on the big toe of the longer leg. 

In other cases, bunions are directly linked to arthritis. 

There are also environmental factors. For example, because women often wear tight or high-heeled shoes, the foot bones can be pushed into an abnormal shape over time.

Non-surgical Treatments for Bunions

In mild cases, non-surgical treatments can be performed to address pain from bunions. For example, purchasing a pair of well-made shoes with a larger toe box can alleviate your discomfort. Your doctor may also recommend shoe inserts, splints, or bunion pads. At home, soothing the area with a warm foot soak or a cold compress can also help reduce inflammation and pain.

What Is a Bunionectomy?

If non-surgical treatments are no longer providing relief, you may be a candidate for a bunionectomy, a procedure in which your doctor surgically removes the bunion. Most patients only require local anesthesia for this treatment. 

The most common types of bunionectomies include:

  • Osteotomy: During this procedure, the joint in the big toe is realigned into a more appropriate position.
  • Exostectomy: This method involves removing the bunion without the additional realignment.
  • Arthrodesis: In some cases, the damaged joint will be replaced with metal plates and screws.

The type of surgery necessary for you will largely depend on the unique characteristics of your case. During an initial consultation, your doctor will determine which treatment will suit your needs.

Who Is a Bunionectomy Candidate?

Determining the right time for surgical intervention can be challenging. Generally, we recommend a bunionectomy when the pain becomes severe. For example, you may be a candidate for a bunion removal if:

  • The pain or discomfort keeps you from performing routine tasks or activities
  • You cannot walk as much as you used to without experiencing significant foot pain
  • Your big toe is constantly tender and swollen, even with rest and medication
  • You are unable to straighten or bend your big toe

Patients considering a bunionectomy should be in good general health and should not have any medical conditions that could affect the success of treatment. 

If you are on blood-thinners, you may be required to discontinue them for a few days before your surgery. 

Patients should also be compliant and be willing to closely follow the guidelines set forth by your doctor for a successful and speedy recovery.

Contact Our Practice to Learn More

If you have severe pain due to a bunion, a bunionectomy could be the solution for you. To learn more, or to schedule a consultation, call us at (512) 476-2830 or contact us online anytime.

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