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Bunionectomy: Removal of Bunions

What is a bunion?

A bunion (BUN-yun) is a bony growth of the first joint of the great toe. The first joint is located at the base of the great toe. A bunion juts out from the joint and pushes the bones of the great toe out of line. The great toe becomes pushed toward the other toes. Bunions deform the feet and usually cause discomfort or pain. Wearing shoes may be quite uncomfortable.  

What causes a bunion?

You can get bunions from:

  • An inherited tendency
  • Arthritis
  • Shoes with high heels or pointed toes
  • Shoes that don’t fit properly
  • Shoes that are too tight

How are bunions treated?

In the early stages, a doctor may prescribe shoe inserts or special shoes for your bunion. If your bunion gets larger or more painful, surgery may be needed.


Surgery to treat bunions is called bunionectomy (BUN-yun-ECK-tuh-mee). During surgery, your surgeon makes an incision at the top of the great toe. A small piece of the bone is removed. The bone is positioned in the great toe to correct the deformity. Sometimes a screw, wire, or pin is inserted to keep the bone in the proper position. Then the incision is closed, and a dressing is applied.

Surgery for bunions is usually an outpatient procedure. You go home the same day that you have your surgery.

After surgery

  • For the first 2 days after surgery, it’s very important to keep the affected foot raised above the level of your heart as often as possible. For example, you can prop up your foot on pillows.
  • When you notice swelling in your foot after the first 2 days, keep your foot raised. This will help to reduce swelling.
  • Ice also may help reduce swelling and pain. Apply ice to the affected area for 15 minutes at a time. For the first 2 days, re-apply ice every 1 to 2 hours while you are awake. Be sure to keep your incision dry while using ice.
  • Your doctor will prescribe pain medicine for you to take at home.
  • You will be given a special shoe to wear to help protect your foot. Your doctor will
    tell you when to start wearing the shoe.
  • Keep your dressing clean and dry until your follow-up appointment.

When to call the doctor

Call your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Fever of 101º F (38.3º C) or higher
  • Increased pain that is not relieved by pain medicine and raising your affected foot above heart level
  • Any new or unusual drainage on your dressing
  • Any redness, swelling, or drainage from the incision after the dressing is removed


Follow-up appointment

Call your doctor’s office to make a follow-up appointment for:



Doctor’s name:___________________________

Doctor’s phone number:__________________

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