How much does bunion surgery cost?
Bunion surgery needs to be carried out by a specialist, experienced surgeon and can therefore be expensive. The final cost of bunion surgery depends upon the type of surgery being carried out and the extent of the damage to the joint as a result of the bunion.
The total cost of bunion surgery includes an orthopedic consultation, an X-ray, and the surgery itself.
In the United States, the average cost of a bunion surgery is in the region of $7,000 (per foot). This can vary hugely from state to state, and can cost as much as $25,000 in some areas.
Whilst bunion surgery in the UK is available free-of-charge on the NHS for those who most require it, at a private hospital the average price quote is approximately $5,440.
If you are put off by the high price of bunion surgery at home then you might want to consider travelling abroad for treatment. There are a number of accredited hospitals worldwide offering quality bunion surgery at affordable prices. Although the thought of surgery in another country may seem daunting, many hospitals provide a range of services to cater for international patients to help make the process as comfortable as possible. These may include translation services, accommodation, airport transfers and car hire. Hospitals which care for patients from abroad are also staffed by English-speaking nurses and doctors, whilst the surgeons and specialists have often gained experience internationally.
How is a bunion treated?
Many people find that non-surgical methods are able to relieve of the pain and discomfort than a bunion brings. Your doctor may first suggest that you try to relieve the symptoms of the bunion using a combination of painkillers and anti-inflammatories, as well as aids such as ice packs or heat presses. Bunions could also be addressed using orthopedic shoes, inserts and pads, which can prevent them from forming in the future. These are only temporary measures, however, and do not address existing bunion.
Bunion surgery is recommended when the symptoms become so acute that they impact on your ability to carry out everyday activities without pain and discomfort. It also carried out when the structure of the foot is being compromised by the bunion and causing further problems with posture and walking. Bunion surgery will never be performed for cosmetic purposes, only to realign the foot to its natural position. There is also no 100% guarantee that bunion surgery will fully cure foot pain, which could be caused by other underlying problems with the foot.
How does bunion surgery work?
Bunion surgery is a complex procedure, and there are over 100 different methods used.
The method used depends on your individual condition and the causes behind the bunion, as well as the preference and professional opinion of the surgeon. The ultimate goal of bunion surgery is to relieve pain, realign the big toe and surrounding bones and address the structural deformities in the food which cause bunions to form.
Whilst there are a variety of different techniques used in bunion surgery, the basics of the procedure remain the same. Surgery is carried out under a local anesthetic (though general may sometimes be used on request of the patient). The procedure takes around one hour and is performed on an outpatient basis, meaning you can return home the same day.
One of the most common techniques involved in bunion surgery is the repair of the tendons and ligaments that surround the big toe. This is performed when the surrounding tissues either side of the toe are either too loose or too tight, causing an imbalance in the alignment which can result in the toe skewing in towards the others. If this is the case, the surgeon can either shorten or lengthen the ligaments and tendons to bring them back into line.
Osteotomy is another procedure used to cure bunions. This involves the surgeon making a series of small cuts into the bone of the foot in order to realign it, and sometimes a small piece of bone will be removed. The resulting gap is then filled with screws, plates or metal pins, which re-balance the structure of the bone and allow it to straighten. An osteotomy is often performed in combination with tendon and ligament repair to ensure that big toe alignment is maintained.
Exostectomy is another bunion surgery method used alongside osteotomy, which involves the removal of the lumpy tissue itself. Whilst this a necessary part of bunion surgery it will never be able to cure the bunion itself as it does not address the problems with alignment.
For patients with significant to severe levels of arthritis in the joint an arthrodesis is often carried out, which replaces the arthritic joint with a metal plate, screw or wire. This remains in place until the bone heals over and the joint is once again aligned.
Arthritic patients (particularly those who are elderly) may also be treated with a resection arthroplasty, which removes part of the joint but does not replace it with a plate, allowing flexible scar tissue to form in its place.
What is a bunion – and what causes it?
A bunion is a lump of tissue which forms around the base of the big toe. The tissue is unnatural and can interfere with the natural structure of the foot. Bunions develop when the big toe is slightly misaligned from the other toes, causing the toe to push against the metatarsal bone. This results in the formation of the problematic tissue.
Most bunions develop as a result of the natural ageing process, but can start to appear in early adulthood. They can be caused by a poor natural structure of the foot, something that is usually genetic – many people find that bunions run in the family. On the other hand, a bunion could be the result of years of poorly-fitting or inappropriate footwear which cause friction. Women are particularly prone to bunions due to high-heeled shoes, which exert pressure on the big toe area and causes it to gradually become misaligned.
Many people see a bunion simply as an irritation or an annoyance, but the reality is that bunions can become incredibly painful if left untreated and can lead to problems with the alignment of the toes. This can result in long-term problems with posture, with the bunion resting directly on the joint where a great deal of pressure is applied when walking.
When a bunion develops and becomes painful, swollen and inflamed, the most effective treatment is a full surgical removal.
Other causes of bunions include arthritis as well as structural problems with leg length – bunions often develop when one leg is longer than the other.
How do I know if I have a bunion?
The visible signs of a bunion are usually obvious, but you should always see a doctor for an official diagnosis before seeking treatment. In very rare cases what appears to be a bunion is in fact a cancerous growth. An official diagnosis of a bunion can rule out other potentially malicious causes. An x-ray is usually the most effective way of diagnosing a bunion, and can also determine the extent to which the joint has become deformed. Your doctor may also want to take a series of blood tests to see whether arthritis may be the reason for the bunion developing.
How long is the recovery after bunion surgery?
It is vitally important that you follow the instructions of your surgeon during the recovery period in order to achieve the best outcomes. Anything that compromises the recovery could seriously impact on the healing process and could result in the need for further bunion surgery in the future.
You will leave the hospital with your foot heavily wrapped in bandages, which hold the foot in the correct position. Keeping it in this position is essential for correct healing, meaning you shouldn’t disturb or move the bandaging around without first consulting your surgeon. To prevent infection you should also keep the dressings clean and dry. The initial bandages will be removed after around 2 weeks but the foot will need to be supported by further braces and dressing for up to 3 months following the surgery.
Pain and swelling is common following bunion surgery. The pain can be treated with medication whilst specialist ice packs may be provided for the swelling, and you should keep your foot elevated as much as possible in the days days following surgery. Swelling may be still be visible for up to 6 months.
As the foot heals it is crucial that you take care in putting weight upon the joint; if you try to bear weight too early without sufficient support then you run the risk of misaligning the corrected bones. Your surgeon may provide you with a range of braces, casts, supportive shoes or walking aids in order to help you gradually become more mobile following surgery.
It is likely that you will also be given a range of physical therapy exercises to complete at home before being referred for external physiotherapy sessions. These exercises aim to restore the range of motion and flexibility to the joint, as well as strengthening the surrounding tendons, ligaments and muscles. Following the physical therapy regime is important if you wish to achieve quality and long-lasting outcomes.