Podiatrist in Clinton, Maryland Dispels the Myths of Bunion Surgery

Dr. Michael Frank, a Clinton podiatrist with over 10 years of experience in bunion surgery is excited by advances in techniques. Dr. Frank of Family Foot & Ankle Associates of Maryland states that there are a number of misconceptions about surgery.

Myth #1: It is a common myth that bunion surgery is often unsuccessful or “botched”. This is simply not true. Almost 95% of patient surveyed 6 months after bunion surgery would not only do it again, but would recommend it to their friends and family. That’s a pretty good success rate. Patients must have realistic expectations. Bunion surgery can be helpful at relieving pain, but patients should not expect to have "perfectly normal" feet immediately after surgery.

Myth #2: Bunion surgery is extremely painful. Again, simply not true. Bunion surgery is not particularly "more" painful than other surgeries.  There is pain after surgery, but most patients only require narcotic pain medication for a few days after surgery then use anti-inflammatories to control their discomfort and swelling. Foot surgery, in general, can lend itself to increased pain post-operatively because the foot is below the level of the heart and blood can rush to the area, causing a throbbing feeling. This can be well controlled with a post-operative pain management program.

It is best to learn about the latest techniques and consult a podiatric surgeon who has the experience to offer a wide range of options. Dr. Michael Frank has several offices around the Washington DC area including Olney, Silver Spring, and Clinton, Md. Dr. Frank can be reached at 301-924-5044 or www.marylandfeet.com

Dr. Michael Frank

Myth #3: Bunions come back even after surgery. Again, not true. A majority of patients are satisfied with their outcome after bunion surgery. Recurrence is possible, but not particularly likely. And, return of a bunion is not necessarily a complication, but something that can happen over time. Some patients have excessive motion in the foot that may predispose them to recurrence. This is why functional foot orthotics are needed in many patients post0operatively to control foot function. Another possible reason for recurrence occurs when a procedure that was performed did not best suit the severity of the particular bunion -- so it's important to have the surgery tailored for your particular bunion. Discuss this with your surgeon or get another opinion prior to surgery.

Myth #4: Bunion Surgery = cast and crutches for months. While this was true years ago, more modern techniques have allowed surgeons to mobilize patients quicker. Mild bunions typically involve walking in short walking boot cast for one month, then a sneaker for another month. Surgeons consider casting with crutches with larger bunions because setting the bones is more complex. Some surgeons have moved away from bone cuts and instead perform a fusion procedure that allows for realignment of the entire deviated bone. This fusion procedure is called the Lapidus Bunionectomy, and contemporary approaches allow for early protected walking at four to six weeks postoperatively. Recent technological advances in medical implant devices have also helped surgeons modify their techniques to get patients moving quicker.

Myth #5: You have to be off work. This, again, is simply not true, and a function of the demands of your workplace. A patient can return to a sedentary desk job within a week of the surgery, and varies based on surgeon protocol and type of bunion surgery performed. Jobs that require excessive walking, standing and physical activity may require a medical leave of absence -- which can be up to two to three months depending on healing and job requirements. Getting around can be difficult and driving may be off limits if you have your right foot operated on and/or drive a manual. Job demands of a pilot certainly differ than those of a secretary.

Myth #6: Don't fix a bunion unless extremely painful. The concern with surgically correcting a non-painful bunion is that the surgery can result in longstanding post-operative pain that may not have been there prior. The old rule-of-thumb, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. However, people do have surgery for non-painful bunions if the bunion interferes with activity, continues to become larger, or if they have difficulty wearing certain shoes. Surgeons strongly prefer that patients have a painful bunion before they consider surgery. Fortunately, pain is the most common reason people seek treatment.

Myth #7: Bunion surgery results in ugly scars: Surgical healing is part of the process with any surgery, and bunion surgery is no different. Incisions can be minimized, or alternate surgical approaches may be used to hide surgical scars. Bunion incisions are usually located on the top of the foot and technique varies based on surgeon. A surgeon may perform a plastic surgery-type closure to keep scaring minimum. Decreasing swelling, avoiding infection in the postoperative period, and scar cream can also minimize scars.