Bunion surgery

Bunion on the left foot

How does a bunion occur?

Bunions occur at the base of the big toe, forming a bony lump on the side of the foot that tends to be painful. They are often the result of wearing shoes that do not allow room for the toes to lie straight. Sometimes sufferers also have arthritis of the same big toe joint.

What can surgery do?

Surgery should straighten the big toes, allowing you to wear shoes more comfortably.

What are the alternatives?

If you prefer not to have surgery, you might choose orthopaedic footwear, which will be more comfortable.

What happens during the operation?

Your surgeon will discuss the method of anaesthesia with you. The operation takes half an hour to an hour.

The aim of the operation is achieved by altering the length of the ligaments associated with the big toe, bringing it into line with the other toes.

What complications should I be prepared for?

Complications associated with all surgery:

  • Infection at the site of the operation
  • Bleeding
  • Pain
  • Scarring
  • Blood clots
  • Difficulty passing urine

Complications associated specifically with bunion surgery:

  • Nerve damage
  • The bone might not heal well
  • Difficulty moving the big toe
  • Complex regional pain syndrome (severe pain, stiffness or even loss of use of the foot)
  • Discomfort in the ball of the foot
  • The bunion comes back

What is the recovery time for this operation?

Patients are usually discharged within 24 to 48 hours. Rest is advisable for the first week post-surgery. Sit with the affected limb raised on cushions to help the swelling to go down. Ask your GP or healthcare team about resuming exercise, which will help you get mobile again more quickly.

Your surgeon may decide to put your operated leg in a plaster cast for a few weeks and it is likely that you will require a walking aid such as elbow crutches to assist you until the pain and swelling settles down.

You can expect to start wearing your normal, comfortable shoes after about six weeks.


Surgery for a painful bunion should result in the affected big toes being straighter than before, making it easier to wear normal footwear, as well as reducing the pain.


Acknowledgements: EIDO Healthcare Limited

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