What to Expect: Bunionectomy

what to expect after bunionectomy

By: Adrienne Beauduy

A bunion, which is also referred to as hallux valgus, is an enlargement of bone and tissue that develops at the joint of the base of the first toe.  The severity of this deformity varies. In some cases, bunions can cause pain and difficulty walking.

The surgical procedure to correct this deformity is called a bunionectomy. It is typically an outpatient procedure. Depending on the severity of the deformity, the surgical procedure would include removal of the bunion, and potential re-alignment of the big toe. The foot will be bandaged following surgery for protection and healing.

Initially after surgery, one can expect pain and swelling. Elevation of the leg and foot, along with ice, can help to reduce swelling. The surgeon may limit walking or recommend using an assistive device, such as a cane or walker, until the stitches are removed and while the wound is still healing. The dressing and shoe brace support will depend on the severity of the surgery completed. Medication to address pain and prevent infection may be prescribed.

In the first several weeks following surgery, one can expect limitations in range of motion and strength in the foot and toes. These limitations can cause difficulty walking on flat and uneven surfaces, navigating curbs, going up and down stairs, rising onto toes, and squatting.

At this time, physical therapy may be recommended to help restore normal mobility in the ankle, foot, and toes.  Gait training also may be included to wean the patient from an assistive device to walking with a normal shoe. Exercises to increase strength in the foot will provide stability during weight-bearing and improve balance during functional activities. Physical therapy for this condition typically lasts from 4-8 weeks. Full recovery from bunion removal surgery takes four to six months.

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