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Medically Reviewed April 2023, by Mr. Bryan Mayou (GMC: 1414396) - founder of the Cadogan Clinic and one of the world's leading plastic surgeons
Bunion surgery is one of the most common foot operations performed in the UK.
Bunion removal surgery is carried out in order to correct the deformity of the foot, caused by a bunion. Bunion removal will also relieve the pain that often comes hand-in-hand with the appearance of a bunion.
Bunions fall into four different categories: mild, moderate, severe and arthritic or big toe joint bunions. The type of bunion surgery depends on the severity of the bunion. The procedure may involve removing or cutting into the bone, repositioning tendons and ligaments, or, in particularly severe cases, fusing the joint.
Other factors that may influence the type of surgery you have include your age, bone condition, the condition of the connective tissues, your activity levels and general overall health.
Bunion removal cost at the Cadogan Clinic starts at £4,000. This includes:
Bunions, in simplistic terms, are bony lumps that grow on the side of the foot or feet.
But in reality, bunions are a little more complicated than that. A bunion (hallux valgus) is a gradual dislocation of the big toe joint due to the failure of supporting ligaments and tendons around the big toe joint. Therefore most modern treatments are directed towards correcting the overall alignment of the joint rather than a so-called ‘bumpectomy’, as the older techniques were often labelled.
Bunions may present in several different ways. You may develop hard lumps on the sides of your feet, right next to your big toes, or find that your big toe is pointing towards your other toes. Alternatively, a bunion may result in an area of hard or swollen skin, which may appear red or a darker colour than the surrounding skin.
It is not always possible to prevent bunions from forming. There are things you can do at home in order to ease the pain or discomfort caused by a bunion, but you cannot get rid of the bunion itself. They can only be straightened out by bunion surgery, which will eliminate any pain and improve your quality of life.
The exact cause of bunions is unknown, but there are certain factors that put a person at a greater risk of developing this common foot problem.
An estimated one in three women will suffer from a bunion complaint at some point in their lives, with women more likely to experience painful bunions than men. Most bunions that form in women are down to wearing high heels or pointed shoes. Wearing tight or badly fitting shoes puts extra pressure on the big toe joint. This also causes friction on the overlying skin which can cause it to thicken and become swollen and painful, making the problem even worse. Sometimes a fluid-filled sac develops over the joint.
Bunions can also be inherited, but they do not show up in every generation. A joint problem, such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, may also be to blame for bunions developing.
Foot problems can often be made worse by diabetes, so it is important that anyone with the condition keeps their diabetes in check in order to avoid exacerbating existing bunions.
Words from our clients:
"I was extremely satisfied with the care and treatment I received at the Cadogan Clinic. My surgeon was friendly and informative and explained the procedure fully. My procedure went very well and with the excellent care of the nursing staff, I made a speedy and full recovery. Would recommend to anyone."Eva Berry
"At the beginning before the operation the nurse taking care of me made me feel so comfortable. The surgeon and anesthetist helped me feel so calm. Fantastic before and after treatment"Scarlett Elliott
"The girls on the reception at the clinic were very pleasant and professional. The nurse who took out my stitches after my surgery was just lovely and took me through step by step what she was doing and she also recommended a great cream to use to help with healing."Georgina Nolan
“I was treated with care and provided with thorough knowledge about the procedure I was undertaking. My surgeon was very methodical (a perfectionist) and I felt I received A class treatment."Courtney O'Sullivan
"Outstanding experience from the first appointment to being discharged. Very professional, friendly and a fantastic outcome."Gemma Stevenson
"Reception staff very welcoming and efficient. Both nurses who I dealt with were fantastic, and the whole team (anaesthetist, surgeon etc) were friendly but professional, and really put my mind at ease. That I was able to stay later than I perhaps needed after my surgery to fit in with my husbands schedule was greatly appreciated."Emma Davies
Bunions develop slowly, often over the course of several years. At first, they may just feel like an annoyance. Most people do not recognise them as a problem until the joint becomes painful or it becomes difficult to wear certain types of footwear.
In a nutshell, common signs and symptoms of bunions include:
Calluses on your second toe
Bunions can cause crowding of smaller toes, which may result in hammer-toe problems developing. Bunion removal surgery can help to prevent these further problems from developing.
There are certain things you can do to help alleviate the pain and discomfort caused by bunions and items like bunion pads can be purchased from a pharmacy. Your GP or podiatrist will be able to advise you on how to care for your bunions yourself.
However, surgery is the only way to get rid of troublesome bunions.
Diagnosing a bunion is generally quite a straightforward process.
A bunion can be diagnosed by just looking at the affected foot, as there will be a visible lump present. Your doctor will ask you to move your toe and foot to check whether your bunion is impeding your movement. Sometimes it may be necessary to take an x-ray of the foot to determine the severity of the bunion.
Your doctor may also choose to carry out a blood test if they suspect that arthritis may be the cause of your bunion.
There are several different options for bunion removal surgery, depending on the severity of the bunion.
Cut and remove:
Also known as an osteotomy, the cut and remove method of bunion surgery involves an incision on the top or side of the big toe joint and the removal or realignment of soft tissue and bone. This is done to relieve pain and restore normal alignment to the joint.
This method is suitable for mild, moderate and severe bunion removal.
In particularly severe cases, where the joint is damaged beyond repair, it may need to be fused. This allows the bones to heal together and eliminate movement and pain.
The toe is opened up and any large bony lumps are trimmed. The joint surfaces are cut out and trimmed so the toe can be fixed in the correct position. The toe bone is then fixed in place with metal screws.
Techniques and advancements in screw and plate technology allow early weight-bearing and minimally invasive techniques. This means our foot surgeons are able to perform this operation with minimal trauma, thus allowing quicker recovery and return to normal life after the operation.
This method is common in cases where arthritis is a factor.
In the most serious cases, an artificial implant may be advised, similar to an implant used in hip or knee replacement surgery. The surgeon will need to remove small pieces of bone and any bone spurs present in order to prepare the toe for the implant. If arthritis is a factor, then an artificial implant will help by improving the big toe’s range of motion.
It can take some time to recover from bunion removal surgery. You should stay off your feet for as much as possible for at least a fortnight after the operation. You cannot drive for six to eight weeks and will need six to 12 weeks off work. All sports should be avoided for six months to allow the foot to heal properly.
There are a number of benefits to bunion removal surgery. The biggest benefit of having this procedure is that, once you have recovered, the bunion surgery will have relieved the pain that can come with living with a bunion. This includes any pain going down the side or across the bottom of the foot.
The surgery can also lessen or eliminate any foot deformities caused by the presence of a bunion, such as crowded toes or a splayed foot. Not only will this improve the appearance of the foot, but it will be easier to put on shoes without them feeling too tight or uncomfortable. Once the foot has healed, you should be able to walk comfortably, without pain and discomfort. Bunion removal surgery can prevent new problems from developing in the foot, such as hammer toes. Bunion surgery can also reduce the likelihood of corns developing on the affected foot.
Many people with bunions find them painful and unsightly, which can have a serious impact on their self-confidence and overall mental wellbeing. Bunion removal surgery can have an overwhelmingly positive effect on an individual’s mental and emotional health.
We have invited a selection of the country's very best consultants to join us at the Cadogan Clinic so that you can be sure that whatever the nature of your treatment, you will be seeing one of the top practitioners in the country.
The Patient Journey. A breakdown of what you can expect on your journey with us
We are deeply invested in ensuring that every step of your surgical journey with us is as informative and reassuring to you as it can be. This article outlines what you can expect at each stage of the journeyThe Patient Journey
What to expect before and after bunion surgery?
Your journey to bunion surgery will begin with an initial consultation where the surgeon will go through the options available, discuss your medical history and take key measurements and clinical photography. If you decide to go ahead with your bunion removal, you will be given a two-week cooling-off period.
The surgery is carried out as a day case and you will need a friend or relative to drive you home afterwards. You should stay off your feet for as much as possible for two weeks after bunion removal surgery.
You will return to the clinic within two weeks after surgery when our nursing team will review your incision sites and assess your healing. The surgeon will see you at the six-week mark for a final appointment.
It is vital that you follow all the aftercare advice issued by your surgeon. Failure to do so may delay the healing process or affect the final result.
How can I prevent bunions from developing?
Unfortunately, there is not much that can be done to prevent a bunion from developing on the foot, particularly as bunions often run in families.
However, you can lessen the likelihood of bunions developing by making sure you are wearing shoes that are the right size for you and have plenty of room for your toes. It is advisable to avoid shoes with high heels, pointy toes or are overly tight and force your toes together, as these put you at a higher risk of developing bunions. Stick to shoes with a low heel and soft sole.
If you are overweight or obese, this may put you at a higher risk of developing bunions as this weight adds extra pressure to the base of the big toe. If you are overweight or obese, then you should consider losing weight to improve your overall health.
Can bunions go away on their own?
Bunions do not go away on their own. You can stop them from getting worse or slow their development by making changes, for example swapping high heels for flat, comfortable shoes.
If bunions are not causing you any pain or distress, then you may choose to leave them. But if they get worse, they can get painful or lead to other foot problems and deformities. We recommend bunion removal surgery to prevent any further problems from developing.
How can I stop my bunion from getting worse?
To prevent your bunion from getting worse, make sure you are wearing shoes that fit your foot correctly. Shoes with laces or adjustable straps are the best option as these can be adjusted to fit. Maintaining a healthy weight will stop excess pressure on the big toe and stop the bunion from getting worse.
Bunion pads can provide some protection from the pressure of your shoes, or you may also wish to try insoles (orthotics), arch supports, toe spacers and toe supports (splints). These can be purchased from pharmacies, chiropodists and podiatrists. If your bunion is causing you pain, then over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, can help.
Although you can prevent your bunion from getting worse, you cannot get rid of a bunion at home. Bunion surgery is the only way to get rid of a bunion.
Are there any natural remedies for bunion reduction?
Some people who suffer from bunions use several different methods in order to reduce the swelling and associated discomfort.
There are those who swear by an ice pack wrapped in a tea towel. Holding the pack near the bunion for 20 minutes can help to alleviate the inflammation and pain. However this method may not be suitable if you suffer from numbness or poor circulation in the feet.
There are certain foot exercises which claim to relieve pain, increase flexibility, improve gait and foot mobility while strengthening the foot. Elevating the feet when sitting or lying down or soaking them in an Epsom salt bath can also help to reduce swelling. Some people who suffer from bunions take natural supplements, such as ginger and curcumin, in order to reduce inflammation.
However, although some people find these natural remedies beneficial for managing their bunions, only surgery can remove bunions.
Are bunions painful?
Yes, bunions can be very painful. They can make walking, driving and even standing painful and have a negative impact on a person’s quality of life. This in turn has a negative impact on mental wellbeing.
Any pain can usually be managed with over-the-counter painkillers, such as ibuprofen, or applying an ice pack or a soothing soak in Epsom salts may also help. However, particularly sore bunions can cause chronic pain and may require stronger pain relief. Bunion removal surgery is the only way to get rid of bunion pain. If you are seeking bunion removal surgery in London, the Cadogan Clinic is home to leading surgeons who will be able to put a stop to bunion pain.
What is the difference between a bunion and a corn?
Bunions are bony lumps which form on the side of the foot near the joint. A corn is a small, hard patch of dried skin which appears on the sides or bottom of the toes. Corns are caused by friction and is the skin’s natural reaction to stop the formation of blisters. Corns can be caused by tight or poorly-fitting shoes or socks, barefoot walking or lots of physical activity, such as running or playing sport frequently.
People who suffer from bunions are more prone to corns. This is because the bunion throws off the natural symmetry of the foot, meaning extra pressure is put on the toes or sole of the foot. This extra friction results in the appearance of corns. Bunion removal will help to prevent corns from forming on the feet.
Complications are rare although, as with all surgery, possible. Your surgeon will discuss each of these risks comprehensively at your consultation.
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