By Dr. Dorian Jimenez, DPM
It’s the beginning of November and the flood-gates are about to open in operating rooms all over the country. Long lists of patient names will cover surgery boards at hospitals and surgery centers in every community. For myself and other foot and ankle surgeons, this is a very important time of year. Yes, it’s the holiday season and that means time spent with family and friends. But it also means more time spent with bunions! That’s right, bunions seem to come out of the woodwork; painful, red, screaming in those tight shoes, just waiting to be removed by their friendly foot surgeon.
If you aren’t yet one of those patients who have made the trip to the foot doctor to see about your bunions, what are you waiting for? I’m well aware of the bad rumors surrounding bunion surgery but allow me to dispel some of those myths and hopefully convince you to get those toes to someone who knows.
Myth 1: Bunion surgery is the most painful surgery you can have
While I’ll leave the claims of “painless bunion surgery” to the other pages of the internet, the fact is that bunion surgery is just like any other bone surgery in the body. Patients generally experience some pain, which is controlled with medication, ice and elevation. Additionally, somewhere in the neighborhood of 90% of people who have one foot done will have the other bunion surgery within six months. If it were truly as painful as rumored, I would think most people would forego that second foot.
Myth 2: If you have bunion surgery, you can’t walk for months
This statement is, for the most part, false. There are cases where bunions are so severe that wearing a cast is required for 6-8 weeks, depending on the way your healing progresses. However, with improved techniques and understanding, the majority of bunion surgeries performed are “walking surgeries.” This means that the foot can be placed in a special shoe or boot, allowing the patient to walk short distances immediately following surgery. In fact, most patients are encouraged to get into a lace-up, supportive sneaker within 3-4 weeks after surgery.
Myth 3: They have to break the bones in the foot to fix the bunion
Breaking bones sounds bad no matter which way you put it. When most people hear something like this, they picture a brutal hammering type breaking of the foot bones. Let me assure you this is not the case. While most often the bone is cut during the surgery, it is a very controlled, precise undertaking. When the cut is complete, the bone is secured back together in a better position using pins or screws. This is the part of the procedure that truly corrects the problem rather than just shaving a little bone as some expect.
Myth 4: Bunions always come back after the surgery
There is a risk of a bunion returning to your foot after attempted correction, and this can be a concern with the decision to have not just bunion surgery, but any surgery. While the risk does exist, it is reported that less than 10% of bunions come back. In fact, many recurrences are simply cosmetic and do not result in pain. The great toe joint is still lined up correctly, which is the goal of bunion surgery in the first place.
So as the rumors will undoubtedly continue, hopefully this has helped to clear up any undue concerns regarding a decision to get your painful bunions checked. Who knows, maybe you will find yourself signing up to put your name on the surgery schedule with all of the others!