Bunions are a painful, bony outgrowth alongside your toe, typically the big toe. Bunions appear to have a genetic component as they are often run in families, but wearing ill-fitting shoes or high heels and having gout or rheumatoid arthritis may also contribute to bunion development. People with extra flexible joints may also develop bunions.

Surgery is the usual course of treatment because other methods, such as toe pads and analgesics, only manage the symptoms. Surgery is effective but like any surgical procedure, complications can arise. Here is what you should know before having bunion surgery.

What Does Bunion Surgery Entail?

Surgery for bunions—bunionectomy—usually involves at least two distinct procedures to remove the bunion and correct the deformity. The surgeon will restructure and realign the joint at the base of the toe and then shave off the enlarged bone, called an osteotomy and exostectomy, and repair any tendons and ligaments that surround the big toe. These supporting soft tissues are often either too tight or too loose and will need to be adjusted to keep the toe in the proper position. Arthrodesis may also be required. This is a procedure that removes any joints that have been destroyed from arthritis, which is common in patients with severe bunions or when previous bunionectomies haven't solved the problem of chronic pain. Arthrodesis involves using metal pins or plates to hold the adjoining joints in place and essentially put the toe's bone structure back together.

How Should A Patient Prepare For Surgery?

If you are a smoker, you will need to quit at least a few weeks before the surgery. Many surgeons will not perform elective surgeries on people who are actively smoking. This is because smoking can cause issues with anesthesia and delay healing. There is also increased risk of infection due to the reduced blood flow in people who smoke. The doctor will also take several X-rays or perform an ultrasound to prepare and to plan the surgical methods they will employ.

What Complications Are Possible?

Complications will most likely arise if a bunion is not treated surgically, and you will continue to live with chronic pain, which can make life difficult and further adversely affect your health. For example, a person who has a bunion will be less likely to exercise because of the pain. Therefore, it is in your best interest to have the surgery, even if there is a slight risk of complications. 

For more information, contact a medical professional like Richard Moy DPM INC.