There are numerous types of bunion surgery. In fact, there are more than 100 types by some estimates. Some of these surgeries are aimed at removing bone while others are used to realign tissues. There is no single procedure that works best in all cases. Some surgeons perform more than one type of procedure on the same person's foot.
Depending on a patient’s unique case, a surgeon may find it necessary to remove the lump of bone that bulges out from the side of the foot. This surgery, called a bunionectomy, removes the bulge but does not fix the alignment of the patient’s big toe. Sometimes surgeons remove entire sections of bone from the patient’s big toe. This procedure, called an osteotomy, is used to straighten out the patient’s big toe or foot. In this case, the surgeon may use special devices, such as screws or wires, to keep the bones steady during the healing process.
Sometimes a surgeon sees a need to realign the ligaments around a patient’s big toe during bunion surgery. This surgery is performed to adjust ligaments around a person’s big toe joint that have either become looser than normal or tighter than normal. When this occurs, the patient's big toe becomes misaligned, shifting in the direction of the person’s other toes. Realigning the ligaments can fix the shifting.
In some cases, it may be necessary to remove bone at the end of a patient’s first metatarsal during bunion surgery. A metatarsal is one of the long bones in the foot. The first metatarsal is connected to the metatarsophalangeal joint, which is the joint at the bottom of a person’s big toe. After removing the required amount of bone, the surgeon then reshapes the affected bones, including the big toe bone.
During some bunion surgery procedures, surgeons may remove part of a patient’s toe joint and then fuse the remaining pieces together. In other cases, an artificial joint, or part of one, is inserted in the place of a damaged joint. These artificial joints are often made of plastic.
No matter which type of bunion surgery a patient has, he can usually expect a somewhat lengthy recovery period. Some types of bunion surgery involve more of a person’s soft or bone tissue, requiring longer healing times. Depending on the type of bunion surgery, a patient may require six weeks of recovery time while other patients need up to six months to heal completely.