The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Lasers Are No Cure for Bunions: How to Identify and Correct This Painful Foot Issue

Posted by on Thursday, September 19th, 2013

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Patients often come into our NYC Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine asking if they could have “laser bunion removal” done. Lasers are often considered to be the most advanced form of treatment, associated with the least amount of pain and quickest recovery time. While we can use lasers to zap away warts, toenail fungus, ingrown nails, callouses and neuromas, we cannot use lasers to “remove a bunion.” Over the years, great strides have  been made to reduce the pain, recovery time and scarring associated with the bunionectomy.

severe bunion
Image Source: HuffingtonPost.com

Why Can’t Lasers Fix Bunions?

Lasers are the ideal weapon of choice for a host of cosmetic issues. This powerful medical device uses high-intensity light beams to cut more precisely and coagulate the tissue to prevent excess bleeding. Lasers work well on soft tissues. It’s a popular misconception that a  bunion is a soft tissue bump on the foot like a corn or callus. Unfortunately, a bunion is actually a bone problem requiring correction.

How Are Bunions Corrected?

If you have a bunion, that means your big toe somehow became maligned, causing the underlying bone to protrude outward. By the time you realize you have a bunion, the cartilage has probably started to break down, causing aches and inflammation. Perhaps it was all those years of stuffing your feet into cramped high heel shoes or it runs in your family. Regardless of the cause, a laser would not be good at cutting and mending bone, as the heat would cause bone burns and prevent healing.

Instead, we need to assess your unique situation and determine which type of surgical procedure would work best for you. Traditional surgery has been done by osteotomy bunionectomy (which involves cutting through the first metatarsal and repositioning it) or by the Lapidus procedure (which involves fusing the first metatarsal base to the first cunieform and the second metatarsal base). Patients with excessive hyper-mobility or thin second metatarsals are best suited for the Lapidus fusion. The recovery for both procedures runs from six to eight weeks of crutches, and includes four more weeks of reduced mobility.

tightrope procedure
Image Source: Arthrex.com

What’s New In Bunion Surgery?

A newer procedure we’ve been successfully doing at our Manhattan podiatrist office is called a “mini-tightrope procedure,” which involves drilling four 1.1 mm holes through the first and second metatarsals, and using x-ray guidance to weave two sets of fiberwire that anchors the bones. Rather than crutches, recovery requires use of a special boot for three to four weeks.

The tightrope procedure works well for most types of bunions, although it does not work as well for exceptionally large bunions. The good news is that the latest advancements have put patients back into a tennis shoe within six weeks. The surgeon implants screws that hold and stabilize the bones. Surgeons have been using plastic surgery “scar-hiding” techniques to minimize the permanent marks left behind from surgery.

bunion laser
Image Source: BunionSurgeryNY.com

Have questions about bunion removal? Contact Dr. Geldwert.  We’re happy to answer your questions and work with you to get the best possible treatment for your bunions or other foot issues!

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. 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.