A bunion is an uncomfortable growth that can occur on the big toe of your foot. Over time, this growth can force your toe to bend inwards–in some cases, well over your other toes. Bunions can be painful and limit your mobility, and surgery is one way to eliminate these troublesome bone growths.

Bunions often occur due to specific circumstances or behaviors: wearing shoes that are too small and narrow, for example. So most physicians will first try nonsurgical interventions, such as directing patients to wear wider shoes or using a splint to try to straighten out the toe.

When none of these other therapies work, surgery is generally the best way to remove the bunion and correct the orientation of the toe.

What Happens Before Bunion Surgery?

A bunion is a bone growth that can cause a painful defect in the foot, as the big toe curves over the foot. Can bunions be corrected without surgery? In some cases, yes. Your physician will make a thorough examination of your foot to determine the extent of deformity or damage involved. But if your bunion has reached the point where you cannot bend your big toe, it’s likely that non-surgical interventions will not work. 

Before your surgical procedure, your physician will:

  • Attempt to correct your bunion without surgery (for example, a splint may be used).
  • Take X-rays and diagnostics, including blood work. This is to make sure you are in good enough general health for surgery.
  • Direct you, if necessary, to stop taking some specific medications, such as blood thinners, in the days before surgery.
  • Discuss what your bunion surgery recovery will likely look like.

Once all the testing and diagnostics are complete, your surgeon will be able to determine the best way to treat your bunion.

What Happens During Bunion Surgery?

Minimally invasive bunion surgery is most often performed as an outpatient procedure. This means that you’ll go in for your procedure, undergo the surgical procedure, and return home the same day. Because of the anesthesia involved, you’ll want to arrange transportation home. But most patients will not have to stay overnight in the hospital.

During your bunion surgery, your surgeon will likely make an incision along the top of your foot. What follows will vary depending on the extent of your bunions. There are three basic types of bunion surgery. Your surgeon may:

  • Remove the bunion without having to correct the joint.
  • Remove the bunion and cut the bone, realigning the toe.
  • Remove the affected toe joint on which the bunion has grown. This joint will then be replaced by metal plates and screws.

These approaches are not mutually exclusive and will depend largely on the extent of your bunion growth.

Bunion Surgery Recovery Time

Everyone’s bunion surgery recovery time will be a little bit different. For most, full recovery from bunion removal surgery could take something like six months. But you should be up and walking around and engaging in most normal activities after six to eight weeks. Your recovery will be unique, and your surgeon will provide you with detailed and individualized recovery instructions. 

In general, however, your recovery may look like this:

  • Weeks 1-2: You’ll be given a surgical boot to wear over your foot. Avoid showering or any activities that may get your stitches wet. You will also be given medications to help manage pain and discomfort.
  • Week 3: If all is going well, your surgical boot can be removed. You will then be given a brace. At this point, however, you still will not be able to put weight on your foot, so your surgeon will provide you with special crutches. 
  • Week 5-6: After week five or six, you should be able to resume light activity. However, you should still avoid wearing tight shoes, as swelling may persist for a number of months.

During your bunion recovery, your surgeon may also refer you to a physical therapist. Physical therapy can help you heal more quickly and strengthen the muscles of your foot and leg.

Talk to your surgeon about whether you might be a good fit for bunion surgery at Iowa City Ambulatory Surgery Center–so you can avoid the hospital altogether and have your procedure performed in a clinic-like setting.

Opt to Have Your Surgical Procedure Performed at an ASC

Our team at Iowa City ASC compiled some helpful stats and figures that highlight the cost savings between hospitals and ASCs. If you are curious about the cost difference between hospitals and ASCs, download our resource and find out how you can save money on your healthcare!

  • When we arrived at Iowa City ASC early in the morning for my knee surgery I was met by a team of people who seemed glad to be at work and glad that I was in their facility. Their overall desire to discuss what they needed from me and to assist in meeting my needs was a welcomed situation. Each person truly impressed me with their professionalism and attitude.  The team was attentive to the situation at hand and I feel that contributed to the overall success of my surgery at Iowa City ASC.  I did not even know that my Knee Surgery was the first of this type performed at the ASC until we were ready to go home a few hours after surgery when it was mentioned in passing. The Iowa City ASC team made it seem as though this was an ongoing procedure or process so they should be applauded. Their experience, professionalism, training and smiles made my surgery at Iowa City ASC a success.

    John Weber