Orthopedics

Banish your bunion — with minimally invasive foot surgery

June 01, 2021
someone grabbing their aching foot

Are you developing a bony bump on the side of your foot, just below your big toe? Chances are, it’s a bunion, known in the medical world as a hallux valgus.

 

Contrary to what many people think, bunions aren’t just an issue for little old ladies. They’re common in women of all ages. And some men get them too. In fact, the tendency to develop bunions sometimes runs in families.

 

When you wear tight shoes and stand on your feet all day, the bony bump gets larger and painful. To get relief, ask a specially trained orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon about your treatment options – including the latest minimally invasive surgery techniques.

 

We talked to Jeffrey Levy, D.O.a fellowship-trained foot and ankle orthopedic surgeon with Riverside Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Specialists, who is trained to perform minimally invasive bunion surgery.

 

First, what is a bunion and why does it form?

That bump you see on the side of your foot by the big toe is actually a signal of a problem with the bone structure inside your foot. Your bones are out of alignment.

“Rather than pointing forward, your big toe is leaning toward your second toe. Maybe your big toe is even moving underneath your second toe,” explains Dr. Levy. “Over time, as the big toe turns inward, the joint at the bottom of your big toe is forced outward, creating that bony bump on the side of your foot. That’s the bunion.”

Not everyone has trouble with their bunions. But eventually some people experience:

  • Pain
  • Red, thick skin
  • Swelling and inflammation
  • A burning sensation
  • Numbness
  • Difficulty walking and standing
  • Arthritis

Depending on how badly deformed the foot is, you may have trouble finding shoes that fit. Forget high heels with pointy toes!

Treating a bunion — without surgery

To treat a bunion, Dr. Levy will first recommend that you wear special shoes with a wide toe box and protective pads over your bunion to reduce pain. Sometimes anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, can reduce pain and inflammation, too.

What is minimally invasive surgery for bunions?

If nonsurgical treatments do not relieve your pain and the bunion interferes with your daily activities, you might be a good candidate for surgery.

“Your orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon is specially trained to realign the bone, straighten the first toe joint, and, if needed, repair any soft tissue damage in your foot. Soft tissue includes the muscles, tendons and ligaments,” explains Dr. Levy.

In traditional open bunion surgery, the doctor makes one incision – sometimes as long as two and a half inches – to access the inside of the foot.

An alternative is minimally invasive bunion surgery (MIBS). With the minimally invasive method, your surgeon works through several extremely small, “poke-hole” incisions, rather than one long incision. You can see the difference in these pictures.

image of foot 

“We use X-ray guidance and specially designed instruments to visualize the inside of the foot. Then, through those poke-hole incisions, we make a tiny cut in the bone, straighten it and put screws in place,” explains Dr. Levy. “By straightening the bone, we correct the leaning toe and eliminate the bony bunion bump. And since the incisions are very small, the patient can heal more quickly than with traditional open foot surgery.”

Why is minimally invasive surgery preferable to other surgical treatments? 

Minimally invasive bunion surgery offers patients a faster recovery than traditional open bunion surgery.

The top five benefits of minimally invasive bunion surgery include: 

  1. Minimal scar tissue
  2. Faster healing, less pain, scarring and swelling, and potentially lower risk of infection due to smaller incisions
  3. No need for general anesthesia (You can have local anesthesia, similar to dentistry sedation. You are relaxed but not put to sleep.)
  4. Less damage to the tissues crossing the big toe joint – drastically reducing your risk for future joint stiffness
  5. Ability to walk, drive and return to work sooner. (After minimally invasive bunion surgery, your foot is wrapped in a soft dressing. You do not need a cast or crutches. You can walk right away in a surgical shoe and will probably transition to regular shoes within six weeks.)

Most people are good candidates for minimally invasive bunion surgery. Dr. Levy will carefully examine your foot and tailor the best treatment plan for your particular circumstances.

To get relief for your foot issues, contact Dr. Levy by calling 757-534-9988.

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