The typical surgery for bunion removal is an out-patient procedure that takes about one hour, although it can take longer for really severe bunions and hammertoes. Usually it is performed under ankle block anesthesia, so the bunion surgery itself is not painful. (Pain becomes an issue after surgery if you don’t keep swelling down and weight off your foot.)
The patient is fully awake during most bunion surgeries, but the foot is, of course, numb during the operation. The medical term for this procedure is “bunionectomy.”
This procedure is usually a minimally invasive surgery, and involves making an incision in the top or on the side of the big toe joint so that soft tissue and extra bone can be removed or realigned. Thus, the normal alignment of the joint is restored and the position of the big toe is corrected. Often a bunionectomy also includes rebalancing tendons and ligaments.
There are actually around 100 types of surgery for bunions. The particular surgery your orthopaedic surgeon decides you need will depend mainly upon the extent of your deformity and whether or not there is arthritis in the big toe joint. Another important factor the doctor will consider is the space between your first and second metatarsals. (The metatarsals are the five long bones in the middle area of each foot.)
If the deformity of the big toe joint is particularly severe, bunion surgery becomes more complicated and may involve the insertion of pins, screws, or plates into the joint. Usually under these circumstances, a regional anesthesia is used for the foot and/or lower leg area.
Medical Insurance and Cost of Bunion Surgery
A question anyone considering bunion surgery wants answered right away is “does my medical insurance cover bunion surgery?” Whether or not an insurance will cover all or a portion of the cost of a bunionectomy depends on to what degree the surgery is deemed medically necessary, and the details of a particular plan.
A quick perusal of insurance sites show that they all have strict quidelines for this kind of coverage. One company’s guidelines required proof that a person had tired certain other non-surgical treatments for at least six months. Another concern is that some plans only cover up to a specific dollar amount for foot care per benefit year.
The actual cost of bunion surgery can vary from $2,000 to as much as $15,000, with the average in the United States being between $3,500 and $5,000. Naturally, the more complicated the procedure, the higher the cost to the doctor and the hospital. How much of this will be covered by insurance will depend on the factors discussed above.
Bunion Surgery Recovery
After the operation, recovery can least anywhere from six weeks to several months. You will have stitches that will be removed after one to three weeks. During this time you must keep your stitches dry. Following your doctor’s instructions for keeping down the swelling will have a big impact on how well your recovery progresses.
How soon you will be walking and resuming your normal activities after bunion surgery will depend on many factors. The use of crutches is common, especially right after surgery, since keeping weight off your foot is necessary. Your doctor may recommend wearing a surgical shoe as your foot heals. To read more about bunion surgery recovery click here.
A bunionectomy is an option many people choose when their efforts at reducing bunion pain have not provided the relief they need. For this reason, this foot surgery is normally seen as a last resort option, but one unfortunately many people find necessary.
A person with a bunion who has significant pain when walking even when wearing comfortable shoes with a large toe box is a prime candidate for bunion surgery. This is especially true if anti-inflammatory drugs have not made any real difference in helping a chronically painful big toe.
While no surgeon can guarantee that you will be completely free of pain after surgery, most people who undergo bunion surgery are pleased with the results. This is so even with the extended time required for recovery.
While no one looks forward to surgery of any kind, living with bunion pain that does not go away is an option that few people can accept. Surgery for bunion removal is a common option when other types of treatment do not provide adequate relief from pain. A high quality bunion splint is your best bet for non-invasive bunion treatment, and many podiatrists recommend trying a splint before making a final decision about surgery.
Severe foot pain that is not lessened by the use of padding or splints and does not respond to anti-inflammatory drugs is the most obvious reason for bunion surgery. Other conditions may also lead you to chose this option such as hammertoes, a significant deformity of the big toe whereby it drifts toward the small toes, extreme stiffness in the joint of the big toe that hinders walking, and,chronic inflammation of the big toe that requires ongoing medication or injections.
Although there are no guarantees that after a bunionectomy your pain will be completely gone, studies show that around 85% of the people who choose to have this surgery feel afterward that it was the right course of action.