Considering Surgery for Bunions, Hammertoes, or Other Deformities
Foot deformities like bunions and hammertoes really have a way of making your life miserable, especially if they’ve had enough time to become severe.
When joints and toes are significantly misaligned, the common results include arthritic pain, lack of joint mobility, difficulty fitting your feet into normal shoes, and even corns and calluses developing in the spots where feet and toes rub up against your shoes—or against other toes.
Of course, this doesn’t even consider any anxiety you might feel about exposing a foot with an obviously misshapen appearance to the world. For many people, that’s an important consideration, too!
Although early intervention with conservative therapies can often help keep a foot deformity from getting worse, severe deformities usually require surgery. And for many people, that’s a scary leap to take. How will you know when it’s time? And what can you expect? In this blog, we’ll try to answer some of those questions for you.
How Will I Know If Surgery Is Even Necessary for My Bunion or Hammertoe?
It’s important to stress here that each individual case is a little different. This is not only because foot deformity conditions have a lot of variation in terms of their severity and appearance, but also because each patient is a unique person, with their own medical history, personal preferences, and personal ambitions.
The point at which a deformity crosses the line from “can be managed conservatively” to “needs surgery” will depend on the individual, but the main considerations are:
Pain is interfering with your preferred lifestyle.
Obviously, if you’re experiencing daily pain that inhibits your ability to perform basic tasks (work, household chores, etc.), that would definitely qualify.
However, let’s say your bunion or hammertoe doesn’t really bother you every day, but it does hurt if you try running, going for a hike, or playing tennis.
If you don’t really enjoy these particular physical activities, or you’re perfectly happy switching to alternative exercises that aren’t painful, then maybe you can hold off on surgery for now. But if hiking is something that really makes you happy, and is important for your quality of life, then fixing the problem surgically becomes a more urgent need.
Conservative alternatives have either been exhausted or ruled out.
In general, we will prioritize helping you manage your deformity without surgery if we think it would be possible. While this won’t actually correct the shape of your foot, in many cases it can help you alleviate pain and return to normal activities and hobbies.
What Can I Expect from Surgery?
First of all, know this: if you do decide to go forward with surgery, you will be in good hands. Even though we do see surgery as a last resort, long-term success and satisfaction rates for these procedures are high. Dr. Bobrowski has extensive training in reconstructive surgery, and is board-certified by the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons.
There are actually several different surgical procedures that can be selected for most foot deformities, including procedures that cut and realign bones (osteotomies), fuse joints to prevent arthritic pain (arthrodesis), transfer tendons and ligaments to reinforce joints, and more. Each procedure comes with its own set of pros and cons, and we’ll carefully weigh all the relevant factors and discuss them with you before you make your decision.
Most surgeries can be performed outpatient right in our office or at a nearby surgical center. There’s typically no need for hospitalization and you can go home the same day, which definitely helps save time and money. You will need someone to drive you home.
The recovery timetable will depend on many factors—the condition that’s being fixed, the type of surgical procedures that are being used, your health status, and perhaps most importantly how closely you follow your post-surgery guidelines. (Don’t worry—we’ll make sure these are spelled out very clearly for you, and you can call us with questions at any time.)
It’s fairly normal for reconstructive foot surgery procedures to require anywhere from a few days to a few weeks of no-to-limited weight bearing. Eventually (after 6 weeks or so on average, although this varies), you’ll be able to get out of a cast or walking boot and back into regular shoes, although you still might not be cleared for certain physical activities right away.
One question most patients have is when they will be able to go back to work. That’s a conversation we’re happy to have with you at your appointment. If you work a desk job from home, you might only need a couple of days off. If you work a job that requires a lot of standing or walking and it’s impossible to be shifted to alternative duties, the time off required will likely be longer. Transportation is also a consideration, as it’s likely you will not be able to drive for at least a little while if we operated on your right foot.
You Don’t Have to Make This Decision Alone
While there are many things to consider before deciding on surgery, we promise that our caring staff will be with you every step of the way. We know that everyone’s situation is unique, and it’s important to understand all the relevant issues and factors before recommending any specific procedure.
It is true, of course, that no one particularly enjoys the thought of getting foot surgery. Even for minor procedures, you can expect to spend some time off your feet, and will have to slow down your lifestyle for a few weeks to a few months.
But usually by the time we recommend surgery, your day-to-day life is already severely impacted by your condition and conservative remedies are off the table. If surgery can provide you with long-term pain relief and the freedom to pursue your favorite activities at full speed—and well over 90 percent of the time, it does just that—then spending a few weeks or months recovering after a surgery is well worth it.
Please, if you are suffering due to a bunion, hammertoe, or other foot deformity, don’t put off calling us any longer. The earlier you seek help, the more likely we can resolve your problem without needing surgery at all—and the faster you’ll be able to return to your preferred lifestyle.
Just give our office in New Bern a call at (252) 638-4700, or contact using the form below.