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Other types of bunion surgery

BMJ Group Medical Reference

Introduction

This information is for people who have bunions. It tells you about several of the operations that can be used to treat bunions.

We haven't looked at the research on these types of surgery in as much detail as we've looked at the research on most of the treatments we cover. (To read more, see Our method.) But we've included some information because you may have heard of these treatments or be interested in them.

Which operation is right for you?

You get a bunion when the two bones in the joint of your big toe move out of line. This makes your big toe joint stick out. The bony bump you can see and feel is the bunion. Most bunion surgery aims to put the two bones back into line.

You may be surprised to know that there are more than 100 types of bunion surgery. There are different ways to take out bone, mend the shape of your joint, and make the tissues around your joint tighter or looser.

The type of surgery you need depends on things such as how bad your bunion is, how far your bones have moved, and what your doctor suggests. There isn't much good evidence that one type of operation works better than another. Talk to your doctor about how they plan to get rid of your bunion.

  • The most common type of surgery is osteotomy. The bones in your toe joint are cut and put back into line with each other.

  • A less common type is arthroplasty. This is usually used if you have bad bunions and are older.

  • Another type is called arthrodesis. This is sometimes used if you have arthritis.

There are also other options, which we look at here. We don't have enough evidence yet to say if they work and how safe they are.

Surgery just to get rid of your bony bump

The surgery that doctors use just to get rid of your bony bump is called exostectomy. In this operation, doctors just shave off the part of the bone that's sticking out (the bunion). They don't put the bones in your toe joint back into line with each other. This is the least serious type of bunion surgery. [7]

Your foot may look better afterwards and your shoes may fit better. But this surgery doesn't mend your toe joint. That means your bones can keep moving and cause another bunion. Doctors don't use this operation very often.

Surgery just on your soft tissues

Different kinds of tissues wrap around your toe joint and help hold your bones in place. Doctors call these soft tissues. They include muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

Sometimes these tissues get too tight or too loose. This upsets the balance around your joint, so your bones can start to move out of line. Then you get a bunion. Surgery can mend these tissues, so that your toe can move properly again.

Surgery on your soft tissues is sometimes done on its own. But the results may not last very long. It's usually used with other types of operations that take out some bone or fix the shape of your toe joint. [42]

Last Updated: May 16, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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