What Is A A Bunionectomy?
A bunion looks like a bump on the inside of the foot where the big toe joins the foot. Over time, the bunion gets worse. The big toe starts to lean toward neighboring toes instead of pointing straight ahead. (The scientific name for this is hallux valgus or hallux abducto valgus.) The bump is a sign that the bones of the foot are out of alignment. While shoes with high heels or pointed toes may cause the joint to ache, they don't cause bunions. Most often they are due to an inherited foot structure. The tendons and ligaments that hold bones and muscles together at the joint are not working as they should. This structure makes it more likely that a person will develop a bunion.
You are usually born with a foot type that leads to bunion formation. Flat feet with increased flexibility are most likely to form bunions. Abnormal mechanics increase the bunion formation over time. Other causes of bunions include osteoarthritis, gout, rheumatoid arthritis, trauma, and neurovascular disease.
It is unusual to have much bunion or hallux valgus pain when out of shoe wear or at rest. There are exceptions to this and in particular if symptoms have been ignored during the day and the bunion has become very painful during the day then some symptoms may be present at night. The pain from the region of the great toe at rest or at night is however more often a symptom of an arthritic big toe (hallux rigidus) rather than a straightforward bunion. To confuse matters these two conditions can sometimes coexist. Bunion or hallux valgus pain is most often present when walking in enclosed shoes. There may be little bunion pain in sandals or barefoot. It is unusual to have much bunion pain when not putting weight on the foot or at night. If there is bunion pain at rest or at night then there may also be arthritic change within the toe.
A doctor can very often diagnose a bunion by looking at it. A foot x-ray can show an abnormal angle between the big toe and the foot. In some cases, arthritis may also be seen.
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatment of hallux valgus nearly always starts with adapting shoe wear to fit the foot. In the early stages of hallux valgus, converting from a shoe with a pointed toe to a shoe with a wide forefoot (or toe box) may arrest the progression of the deformity. Since the pain that arises from the bunion is due to pressure from the shoe, treatment focuses on removing the pressure that the shoe exerts on the deformity. Wider shoes reduce the pressure on the bunion. Bunion pads may reduce pressure and rubbing from the shoe. There are also numerous devices, such as toe spacers, that attempt to splint the big toe and reverse the deforming forces.
Depending on the severity of the deformity, this osteotomy can be done either at the end of the metatarsal (a distal osteotomy) or if the deformity is more severe, the osteotomy is performed at the base of the first metatarsal (a proximal osteotomy). One of the more common distal metatarsal osteotomies that is performed is called the chevron osteotomy. Typically a small screw is inserted into the bone to hold the metatarsal head in place and speed up bone healing. Following a chevron osteotomy, walking is permitted in a surgical shoe the next day after surgery and the shoe is worn for approximately three to four weeks before a more comfortable walking/running type shoe is worn.
If the diagnosis is made early on, such as in preadolescence, bunion development can be slowed and in some cases arrested with the proper supportive shoe gear and custom functional shoe inserts (orthotics). Avoidance of certain athletic activities with improper shoe fit and toe pressure can prevent the symptoms that occur with bunions.