What's It Like: To get a bunion removed?

by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: August 26, 2012
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Why get a bunion removed?

A bunion is a structural deformity of the big toe joint in the foot.

Humans have two bones that make up the big toe, the metatarsal and hallux. A bunion develops when the metatarsal starts to turn inward and the toe turns outward, leaving a bony prominence that sticks out.

You could also develop what's known as a bunionette on the outside of the fifth toe, or pinkie toe.

In general, your genetics will determine whether you develop a bunion. If you know you're susceptible to developing a bunion, one of the best things you can do is wear shoes with good arch support. Good arch support won't stop a bunion from developing, but it could slow down the bunion's speed in development and its severity.

Another reason people develop bunions is pronation, or when the foot flattens out. Everyone has pronation, but in some people who pronate more, it is more likely to have the big toe start to turn in. Wearing high heels or poorly fitting shoes increases your risk of developing a bunion.

To treat your bunion, a doctor might suggest nonsurgical options first. For example, your doctor might recommend bigger shoes, bunion pads, bunion sleeves or shoe stretchers. Especially if the bunion doesn't hurt, it's up to you on whether it is surgically corrected.

If nonsurgical options won't relieve the pain, your next option would most likely be a bunionectomy, the surgical correction of a bunion. Insurance generally will cover the procedure if the bunion is painful.

What happens when you get a bunion removed?

A bunionectomy is an outpatient procedure that takes about THIS LONG. There are different ways that a doctor can fix a bunion. The surgery that's best for you will depend on the severity of the bunion.

Before the surgery, you'll receive anesthesia to keep you from feeling pain and to help you relax.

For people with only slight angulation, where the bone sticks out a little, the surgery performed will be pretty simple. In this instance, your doctor might make a four-inch cut over the area and smooth down the bone, removing the swollen tissue and straightening your big toe.

If the bunion is more severe, your doctor might have to cut the bone and slide the bone in place. The doctor might use pins, screws, plates or a cast to put the toe in place and ensure that your toe is straight.

The surgery might include making tendons shorten or longer, shaving off the bunion, removing some of the damaged joint or cutting part of the bone on both sides of your toe joint.


by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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