Follow These Five Steps To a Successful Bunion Surgery
Posted by Jenn F. on Friday, May 8th, 2015
About 85% of people who undergo elective bunion surgery will be completely satisfied with the outcome. The remaining 15% observe some improvement, but continue to experience some pain due to limitations with shoe choice or how active they are. A small percentage of those patients may go on to have revision bunion surgery. So, how do you cut down the risk factors and ensure that you’re one of the 85%? NY podiatrists recommend the following five tips for a successful bunion surgery.
1. Choose the right surgeon
As the Fit For Life blog explains, “Selecting the right surgeon is critical to ensure a good outcome.” You probably already know that you want a surgeon who has graduated from medical school, completed accredited residency training, obtained board certification, and pursued specialization in bunions. What you might not know is that there are over 40 different bunion procedures, depending on the particular bunion and foot anatomy, so you definitely want someone skilled in selecting the proper procedure for individual patients. Most importantly, look out for red flags. Do not trust a surgeon who asserts that all his procedures are “superior, minimally invasive, and pain-free,” or who pressures you into immediate surgery and who fail to discuss possible complications.
2. Prepare for rehab
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends the following tips for the smoothest possible recovery:
- Place a plastic bag over your foot while showering to keep the dressing dry (you could also buy this cast and bandage protector).
- Try to avoid bearing weight by walking only short distances during the first few weeks. Avoid driving for about a week.
- Keep your foot elevated as much as possible for the first few days and ice it to relieve swelling and pain.
- Once the dressings come off, wear only athletic shoes or soft leather oxfords for the first few months. Avoid high heels for six months.
- Perform your daily physical therapy exercises to improve strength and range of motion (your doctor will teach you these exercises).
- Take your prescribed antibiotics and pain medication for the first few days after surgery to prevent discomfort and infection.
We recommend that you have someone with you for the first few days to help set up your home for recovery. Get yourself some comfortable pillows, have food and a phone within reach, prepare ice packs and have medication on hand.
3. Contact your doctor at the first sign of trouble.
Complications are uncommon, but you need to look out for the following:
- A dressing that loosens, comes off or gets wet in the first two weeks.
- A dressing that becomes wet with blood or drainage.
- Adverse side effects from post-operative medication.
Signs of infection include:
- Warmth or redness around the dressing
- Increased pain
- Swelling in the calf
Call your foot doctor immediately if you experience any of these complications.
4. Set realistic expectations.
The patient-surgeon consultation is an important time to ask questions and develop a realistic understanding of your recovery. As we mentioned in a past post, you may need to think about what “a new normal” means for you and accept that your toe may never feel exactly like it used to. You may experience some loss in range of motion right after surgery that could take several months of physical therapy to resolve. Stiffness, swelling, toe drifting, and scarring are all possible outcomes, no matter how skilled the surgeon may be. If your cartilage is worn and you suffer from osteoarthritis along with your bunion, those symptoms will persist because the surgery does not add cushioning to the joint and you. On the bright side, function will likely be improved after re-alignment.
5. Consider other alternatives before rushing into surgery.
There are many non-invasive treatments to improve the quality of life for people with bunions like toe spacers, night splints, custom orthotics, wide-toed shoes, foot pillows, shoe cushions, and cortisone shots, just to name a few. We generally advise patients to elect for surgery when they present with a lot of pain, can no longer find shoes that fit comfortably or when the bunion interferes with their quality of life and daily activities.
For more information on bunion surgery in NYC, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. Geldwert is a board-certified podiatric surgeon and bunion specialist with more than 40 years of experience. He has operated on professional athletes, Olympians and active New Yorkers alike. We offer full physical therapy and rehabilitative services, along with a full suite of high-tech pain management tools.
If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, Dr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.