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What Can You Expect During And After Bunion Surgery?

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If you've tried orthotics, cortisone injections, and an array of other treatments but still suffer from bunion pain, then it may be time to consider surgery. Bunion surgery is an involved procedure and it's normal to be a bit nervous about it. However, knowing what to expect during the surgery -- and more importantly, when you're home and recovering -- can make you feel a lot more confident. Here's a closer look at what to expect.

When You Arrive For Surgery

If your doctor decides you're a good candidate for bunion surgery, your procedure will be scheduled, often at a hospital or outpatient surgical center. When you check in for surgery, your vital signs will be monitored and you'll be evaluated by the anesthesia team. Bunion surgery is usually done under local or regional anesthesia, which means your leg and foot will be numb, but you'll be awake during the procedure. Your doctor will likely give you a sedative, either orally or intravenously, to keep you relaxed and calm throughout the process.

Once you are numb and sedated, your surgical team will begin operating. These are the general steps they will follow:

  • An incision is made along the inside of the big toe joint, extending back towards your arch.
  • The bones that comprise your big toe are "broken" using a procedure called an osteotomy. If you have developed extra bone or bony growths, these are removed.
  • Your bones are realigned, and screws are used to hold them in the new position.
  • If needed, some tendons and ligaments in your toe and the top of the foot may also be shortened.
  • The incision is sutured closed.

Following the Procedure

Usually, bunion surgery is done on an outpatient basis, which means you can return home (with a caregiver, of course) once the sedation has worn off and your doctor has observed your vital signs for an hour or two. You won't feel pain initially since the anesthesia will still be in effect. However, your doctor should prescribe pain relievers for you to take once you begin to feel some discomfort.

Following the surgery, your foot will be tightly bound in a bandage. This bandage not only protects the incision, but also holds your foot in the proper position to keep your toe aligned. You'll be asked to return to your doctor's office to have this bandage changed. After a session or two, your doctor may show you how to do this yourself. You'll need to keep your foot dry for a week or more. Many patients take sponge baths or bathe with their leg hanging over the side of the tub during this time.

Usually, you will need to stay off your feet for the first week after surgery. During the second week, you may be able to move around with crutches or a cane. Many patients are able to drive again about four weeks after surgery, and you can expect to wear normal shoes again at about six weeks.

Every patient is different, and your doctor will have to assess your progress and also consider the nature of your job to give you an estimate of when you can expect to return to work after bunion surgery. Most of the healing is complete between three to six months after surgery, however, so you should not expect to be out much longer than that, at the most.

Though bunion surgery itself only takes an hour or two, the recovery process is quite involved. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns regarding the procedure and what you can and cannot do afterwards. For more information, visit a clinic like Richard Moy DPY INC.