If you’ve ever suffered from a bunion, you know this condition can be unsightly and incredibly painful when severe. And while many people can find symptomatic relief from at-home treatments that reduce pressure on the big toe – such as wearing wider shoes with more arch support, over-the-counter bunion pads, and other non-surgical bunion treatments – advanced bunion symptoms will only get better with surgical intervention.
So while bunion surgery can be painful and the recovery can be uncomfortable, bunion removal can be life-changing for people who need it.
What is a bunion?
A bunion is a painful bony bump that forms at the base of the big toe, at the metatarsophalangeal joint (MTP), where the metatarsal (first long bone of the foot) meets the phalanx (first bone of the big toe). Bunions are typically a result of a hallux valgus deformity – a condition where the big toe bends outwards, towards the smaller toes.
There is no single understood cause of bunions, though genetics and ill-fitting footwear are considered the two main contributors to the condition. Studies show that 70% of people with bunions have a family history and bunions are more common in women than men (possibly due to high heels). In most cases, bunions develop over time as pressure on the MTP causes the big toe to drift towards the second toe.
Unfortunately, bunions are permanent without surgical interventions – though many people live with bunions pain-free with the help of non-surgical treatments. Bunion surgery is only considered if at-home treatments and lifestyle changes fail to relieve bunion pain and its associated complications.
Types of Bunion Surgery
Also called a bunionectomy, bunion surgery is an effective outpatient procedure that can help people suffering from severe bunion pain get back to their everyday activities, pain-free. There are a few types of bunion surgeries that correct the condition by repositioning the big toe to relieve bunion pain and improve overall function.
Though considered bunion surgery, this procedure is typically done in combination with soft tissue procedures and other corrective procedures. During an exostectomy, the surgeon shaves off the bump from the toe joint
Soft Tissue Bunion Surgery
Occasionally, the tendons and ligaments around the big toe can be imbalanced – meaning the soft tissue that surrounds the toe might be too loose on one side and too tight on the other, pulling the toe inward. This procedure is typically done in conjunction with an osteotomy.
Osteotomy Bunion Removal
During an osteotomy, the surgeon makes tiny cuts in the bone of the big toe, creating breaks in which they can place screws, pins, or plates to straighten the bone and correct the deformity. As mentioned above, soft tissue corrections are often performed in conjunction with osteotomies to ensure the ligaments and tendons keep the corrected joint in its proper position.
People who suffer from advanced arthritis can also develop severe bunions on their feet due to consistent arthritic inflammation. In an arthrodesis procedure, the surgeon removes arthritic surfaces from the MTP joint and inserts wires, screws, or plates to set the joint until the bones heal. This type of bunion surgery is typically only done on the most severe bunions and for patients who have previous unsuccessful bunion surgery.
Lapiplasty Bunion Surgery
Also called a Lapidus bunionectomy, a Lapiplasty is a minimally invasive bunion surgery that gets at the root cause of bunions by correcting the misalignment in three dimensions (sagittal, transverse, and frontal planes). Unlike an osteotomy, Lapiplasty bunion surgery does not require the use of pins, screws, or plates – instead, a titanium plating system is used to reposition the metatarsal bone into proper alignment and permanently secure the joint in place. Lapiplasties are a relatively new type of bunion surgery that provides significant advantages over traditional bunion removal procedures.
Cost of Bunion Surgery
The out-of-pocket cost of bunion surgery can vary greatly depending on your location, procedure type, and health insurance. In general, bunion correction surgery costs anywhere from a few thousand dollars to more than $7,000. Because many bunions do not require surgery, many health insurance providers consider the procedure to be cosmetic unless deemed medically necessary by a podiatrist or orthopedic surgeon. Likewise, many foot specialists will only recommend surgery if previous non-invasive treatments have failed and the patient is still experiencing chronic pain and/or the bunion affects the patient’s ability to walk.
In these cases, most health insurance plans will cover all or part of the bunion surgery cost. It’s important to keep in mind that most insurance plans require you meet an out-of-pocket deductible before insurance will cover many medical procedures, including bunion surgery.
If you’re suffering from a bunion and need immediate relief, contact the bunion specialists at Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle for an appointment today. We’re here to help you get back on your feet.