Bunion Surgery: Before, During, After

Bunions are a foot deformity that are caused by the big toe pointing inwards towards the second toe, which in turn causes the joint of the big toe to stick out excessively. A bony bump then forms on the joint, right at the base of your big toe. More often than not, bunions are painful and can make walking or wearing shoes uncomfortable. Therefore, bunions surgery is sometimes necessary in order to remove the bunion and relieve pain. Here is an inside look at the steps leading up to the procedure, what the actual procedure looks like, and the after care.


There are a few medical tests your doctor must perform in order to check your overall health before getting officially scheduled for bunion removal surgery. An X-ray of your lungs will be taken, along with a electrocardiogram to monitor heart function. Lastly, your urine and blood will be sampled and tested to check for any underlying illnesses. If your tests all check out, your doctor can then clear you for the procedure. 

Keep in mind that it is possible for your doctor to request you to pause from taking any medication for a few days prior to surgery. This pertains especially to patients who take blood thinners, aspirin, or similar drugs. Other instructions about whether you can eat or drink or not depends on when the surgery is scheduled, so follow the instructions given specifically to you from your doctor.


Bunion surgery does not require general anesthetic, meaning most patients receive a local anesthetic and are awake during the entire procedure. The anesthetic used is called an ankle block, which completely numbs the areas below the ankle. Once numb, the doctor will then proceed to remove the bunion.

The most commonly seen procedure and removal technique is an osteotomy, where the surgeon cuts the big toe joint then realigns it to a normal position. This typically requires breaking the big toe so that it can be correctly aligned, because the incorrect alignment before is the cause for the bunion. Ligaments in the foot will also be tightened or loosened in order to keep the toe in the proper position. Very rarely will the surgeon be able to simply remove the bunion without performing an alignment.

After the procedure, your foot will be bandaged while your blood pressure and heart rate is monitored. Generally, recovery only takes a few hours until you are sent home since bunion removal surgery is an outpatient procedure.


The time period for a full recovery is four to six months on average. A boot or cast will be worn to protect the foot, usually having to be worn for at least two weeks. A brace for support following up the boot or cast will be necessary, along with crutches to help with walking. No weight or strain should be placed on the foot until it gradually heals its own time. Your doctor will follow up with you thorought the recovery process to make sure your foot is healing correctly. Most patients are able to drive and do most, non-straining daily activites after two weeks.

Rest and recovery after surgery is most important. To reduce inflammation, elevate the foot and ice the foot and toe periodically. Swelling is normal and may last for several months. Physical therapy may be recommended by your doctor to boost mobility and strength in your foot. 

All in all, recovery is unique to each patient. To process of recovery and how quickly the foot heals is all dependent of the situation. That being said, most patients experience speedy recovery after proper rest and care.