What is a bunion?

Can lasers eliminate bunions?

What's unique about our approach to bunion correction?

Do bunions ever return?

When should I have my bunions corrected?

Results of the Angulated (Tri-plane) Bunionectomy

Comparison: Traditional vs the Angulated (Tri-plane) Bunionectomy

What happens if I have arthritis in my joints?

Excellence in surgical engineering

What is my foot going to look like after surgery?

Most of our patients experience minimal discomfort

The majority of our patients are in shoes after two to three weeks

What is a bunion?

Bunions are primarily a hereditary condition and most often progressively worsen throughout life. They can affect anyone, although they are most common in women. Bunions will usually be visibly present for many years before they become painful. A change of shoes, activity, or body weight can cause previously non-painful bunions to become painful. A bunion occurs due to multiple factors which result in a mal-alignment of the bones with the big toe drifting toward the second toe. Additionally, there is an enlargement of the "bump" on the inner side of the foot, next to the big toe. As a bunion deformity progresses, the "bump" or bony enlargement increases in size. In addition, the big toe can rotate, and continues to move towards, often over-lapping or under-lapping the second toe.

A bunion is a bone problem. It is not a skin problem or a cyst. As you walk more the symptoms become worse. As the bunion increases in severity it can cause other associated foot problems, such as hammertoes, arch pain, and painful calluses on the bottom of the foot.

Pain is often the result of rubbing of the enlarged bunion against the inner side of a shoe. There may be pain from within the actual bunion joint or when the great toe presses against the second toe.

The exact cause of bunions is unclear. Some of the causative factors include heredity, flat foot structure, ligamentous instability or laxity, muscular imbalance within the foot and birth defects. Improper shoes during childhood may contribute to the formation of bunions, but this is uncommon. Inappropriate shoes during adolescence and early adulthood may aggravate an existing bunion formation.

Mild Bunion Mild Bunion Moderate Bunion Moderate Bunion Severe Bunion Severe Bunion

Can lasers eliminate bunions?

This much-publicized technique is misleading. It is impossible for a laser to cut bone or correct a bunion. Making precise bone cuts is the most critical and important part of a successful bunionectomy. Lasers are useful for very few foot procedures, and offer minimal benefits over traditional techniques.

What's unique about our approach to bunion correction?

In order to effectively correct a bunion and reduce recurrence, all of the foot changes must be addressed to ensure appropriate function after the surgery. Simply removing the visible "bump of bone" will rarely produce a long-lasting result, and does not address the internal structural problems. Unfortunately, inappropriate bunionectomies address only the "bump of bone."

Surgical Screw

Surgical Screw
(gold plated titanium alloy)

Our technique includes realigning the bone for proper function, and uses a surgical screw for the most reliable and stable bone alignment. The proper use of the surgical screw is technically more difficult than other methods, but is worth the additional time and effort. There are several other methods of fixation that can be used in performing a bunionectomy. The screw provides the greatest amount of compression, strength and stability. (Just like screws rather than nails are used in manufacturing excellent furniture, similar thinking is used in our bone fixation.)

Some patients request the removal of the screw after the surgery. If required, the screw can be removed easily during a ten minute office procedure. This procedure may be performed three months after the surgery.

The screw will not affect the security metal detectors at airports.

This method decreases pain, shortens the recovery time, allows for a more rapid return to regular activities and decreases the chances for a recurrence.

See time line for bunionectomy to determine recovery time.

Do bunions ever return?

No surgeon can guarantee perfect results. Unfortunately, if the wrong procedure is performed, the recurrence rate can be quite high. Many of the micro-surgeries and laser techniques have a high recurrence rate because they generally cannot accurately realign the bones. These types of procedures have become less popular recently due to the incidence of recurrence as well as other problems.

There are several bunion procedures. The choice of the correct bunion procedure is critical. The skill of the precision in which the bone is cut, shaped and realigned is essential in producing an excellent result.

When should I have my bunions corrected?

If you have any of the following problems, your feet should be evaluated:

1.    Calluses on the inside of the big toe
2.    Pain around the big toe when wearing certain shoes
3.    Painful calluses on the bottom of your feet
4.    The big toe pushing on the second toe
5.    Difficulty wearing shoes or participating in activities, sports or dancing
6.    Increasing need to wear wider shoes

Results of the Angulated (Tri-plane) Bunionectomy:

In the past, bunion sufferers have been subjected to an array of surgical procedures with mixed results. Pain, long-term disability, hospitalization and casting were the standards of care. Now we use a procedure which changes the traditional way in which bunions are approached. This bio-engineering technique realigns the bones and maintains the correction securely and with generally minimal discomfort. Our results have been very impressive.

Post-operative x-ray with screw Pre-operative x-ray Pre-operative x-ray Post-operative x-ray with screw

Traditional Bunionectomy vs.

  1. Often done under general anesthesia and may require inpatient hospitalization.
  2. Many times require a cast or painful steel pins which protrude through the skin.

  3. Often minimal walking with crutches for months after the surgery.

  4. Patients cannot wear shoes for prolonged periods of time. Extensive pain medication is often required.

  Angulated Bunionectomy

  1. Performed under a local anesthesia, or with mild sedation (twilight sleep) on an out-patient basis (no overnight stay).
  2. A surgical screw is placed beneath the skin. Nothing protrudes through the skin. There are no casts, crutches, or walkers after the surgery. Only a soft gauze dressing is used.
  3. Most patients walk immediately after surgery without crutches, using only a surgical shoe or sandal.
  4. Patients usually return to tennis shoes after two weeks, with minimal discomfort. Minimal pain medication usage is common.

This is the surgical shoe that is worn for two weeks after the surgery.

Surgical Shoe

Surgical Shoe

Casting is not required. Crutches, canes or walkers are rarely used.

What happens if I have arthritis in my joint?

The nature of a bunion is not just a bump. As the "bump" increases in size, often the great toe pushes laterally toward the second toe. This is generally the moderate stage of the development of a bunion. As the joint continues to function out of alignment, the bunion deformity gets worse. Some bunion deformities worsen more rapidly than others, but they all get worse with time.

Bunion X-Ray

Bunion X-Ray

In more advanced stages, some patients also develop osteoarthritis (wearing down of the bunion joint.) The longer the joint is crooked and the longer the joint is mal-aligned, the greater the chance for the person to develop arthritis.

This x-ray on the left shows a foot with severe arthritis of the bunion joint (1st MPJ or metatarsophalangeal joint), and less arthritis of the smaller toe joints. Notice how enlarged the bunion joint has become due to the extra bone growth around the joint.

Traditionally, arthritic joints were destroyed or fused.These are not good alternatives for an active person who puts great demand on their feet. Why destroy a joint if you can save it? For many patients with severe arthritic bunions, a bunionectomy with joint replacement can be used. An MP joint replacement is similar to a hip joint replacement. The results are generally excellent for reducing joint pain and allowing increased activity.Using surgical engineering, we are able to get the big toe joint to bend again, saving many such arthritic joints.

Excellence in surgical engineering

The foot is an amazing mechanical apparatus. What's surprising is how important the bunion joint really is. If the bunion joint doesn't function correctly, many people not only have foot pain, but often unconsciously walk awkwardly to avoid putting additional stress on the painful area of their foot. This is why so many people with big toe problems also develop knee and back pain.

angulated osteotomy

placement of the angulated osteotomy


Pencil example of Bending Torque Moment

Since the force on the big toe joint is horizontal, bending torque moment occurs when you walk. Bending torque moment measures the point of application of weight-bearing forces times the length of the metatarsal bone (lever arm) to the osteotomy location (bone cut). The application of Angulated Bunionectomy (at 1/2x) minimizes the bending torque moment. The illustration below shows the placement of the angulated osteotomy as compared to other traditional osteotomies:

As the osteotomies are moved farther away from the big toe joint, the bending torque moment becomes higher. Higher bending torque moment creates more stress in the area of the bone cut, which can prolong recovery time. Other bone surgeries are done similarly, but there is an advantage in performing surgery at the end of the bone to minimize torque. The quality of the bone is better closer to the joint. The better the quality of bone, the faster the bone heals. Our goal in creating the Angulated Bunionectomy was to minimize torque so that we can get you back to your activities as quickly as possible.

The effects of bending torque moment are similar to bending of a pencil whose point is placed on the edge of a table. Applying a force near the tip of the pencil will not generally result in breaking the pencil, because bending torque moment is minimized. But, if one applies the same force near the eraser, the pencil will break much more readily.

What is my foot going to look like after surgery?

While the Angulated Bunionectomy is performed to repair your painful joint, it is also used to repair unsightly feet. Many people with bunions are embarrassed by their appearance. The Angulated procedure has helped many people return to a life of open-toed shoes.

before and after bunion surgury
Pre Bunion Surgury Before Post Bunion Surgury After

Most of our patients experience minimal discomfort

This new bioengineering procedure, the Angulated Bunionectomy, is done on an outpatient basis. Historically, bunionectomies were performed in the hospital where patients stayed overnight, usually due to post-operative pain and their inability to walk.

Most of our patients stated that their discomfort was markedly less than they had anticipated, and required minimal medications for pain. Additionally, the surgical engineering approach stabilizes the bone allowing our patients to walk the same day as their surgery.

The majority of our patients are in shoes after two to three weeks

With traditional bunion surgery, a return to shoes has often been delayed by pain, swelling, and the inability to walk because of pins or bone instability. The use of a surgical screw significantly reduces pain and swelling. Security of the bone realignment usually allows for immediate weight bearing and ambulation without the need for any casting. Patients are generally ready to begin wearing shoes two weeks after surgery. (See Time Line for Bunion Surgery).

In the past, pins and wires were used to hold the alignment of the bones. The pins stuck out of the foot and prolonged the return to shoes by as much as a month or more. The surgical screw we use is placed beneath the skin and is far more stable than pins. To ensure the best possible results, patients often enter a program of vigorous rehabilitation to help with the healing process and increase the flexibility of the corrected joint.

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All information on this site © 2011 Joshua Kaye, DPM.

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