Making Decisions About Home Care

Facing Bunion Surgery? Here's What To Expect

by Mae Ferguson

If your bunion causes you a lot of pain, your podiatrist may recommend surgery. Surgery is usually left as a last resort when changing the type of shoes you wear and using orthotics doesn't help. Bunion surgery is performed on the joint in your big toe. During the procedure, the doctor removes damaged tissue and realigns your toe. The end result is a reduction of pain and a return to normal physical activities. If you're facing this type of foot surgery, here is what you can expect.

Outpatient Procedure

Bunion surgery is usually done at a surgical clinic on an outpatient basis. That means you'll go home the same day as long as there are no usual complications. You may receive general anesthesia, but it's more likely you'll receive a nerve block instead that numbs your entire foot.

The surgery takes about an hour, but when you factor in the prep time and recovery time, you may need to be at the clinic most of the day.

After Surgery

When the surgery is over, your toe will be wrapped in protective bandages. You will probably be wearing a protective boot or cast over your foot. You'll need someone to drive you home from the operation and to assist you, because it may be a few days before you can put weight on your foot to walk. You might be given a cane or crutches to use for a few days.


Once you're home, you'll need to keep your foot elevated as much as possible to help relieve swelling and pain. You may need to apply ice packs throughout the day to keep the swelling down. The swelling may take a few months to go away.

You should limit walking for a few weeks, and take care to protect your bandaged toe. You'll need to cover it with a plastic bag when you shower, so you can keep the bandages dry. You shouldn't bother the bandages. Your podiatrist will remove them when it's time.

After your doctor removes the bandages from your toe, you'll be able to wear shoes again, but your doctor will probably recommend you wear athletic shoes for several weeks. You definitely want to avoid dress shoes with narrow toe areas that rub against your big toe.

You will gradually resume normal activities as your toe heals. You may be able to drive within a few days, but it will take longer to resume full weight bearing activities. It could take six months or more to fully recover from your foot surgery. You might need to wear shoe inserts, and avoid certain types of footwear, for much longer than that. If you go back to wearing shoes with narrow toe boxes that push your big toe into an abnormal position, your bunion might return.

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