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Bunion Surgery

This webpage will give you information about bunion surgery. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.

What is a bunion?

Diagram of bunion

A bunion is a bony lump on the side of the foot at the base of the big toe (see figure 1).

One of the most common causes of bunions is footwear that does not have enough width to fit the toes in their natural position.

They are occasionally associated with arthritis of the joint at the base of the big toe.

Figure 1: Bunion on foot

What are the benefits of surgery?

Your big toe should be straighter, so your foot should fit more comfortably in a shoe.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

The main alternative to surgery is to adapt your shoes so that they fit comfortably.

What does the operation involve?

A variety of anaesthetic techniques are possible. The operation usually takes between half an hour and an hour.

The operation may involve releasing or tightening ligaments, realigning your big toe and straightening your smaller toes.

What complications can happen?

1. General complications

  •  Pain
  •  Bleeding
  •  Infection of the surgical site (wound)
  •  Unsightly scarring
  •  Blood clots
  •  Difficulty passing urine

2. Specific complications of this operation

  •  Damage to nerves
  •  Problems with bone healing
  •  Loss of movement in the big toe
  •  Severe pain, stiffness and loss of use of the foot (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome)
  •  Pain in the ball of the foot
  •  The deformity coming back

How soon will I recover?

You should be able to go home the same day or the day after.

For the first week, you will need to spend most of the time with your leg raised so that the swelling settles.

Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, you should ask a member of the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

It can take six weeks or longer before the swelling has gone down enough for you to wear a normal soft shoe.


If you have a bunion that is causing pressure and pain, surgery should straighten your big toe and make your foot fit more comfortably into a normal shoe.


Author: Mr Stephen Milner DM FRCS (Tr. & Orth.)

Illustrations: Medical Illustration Copyright © 2011 Nucleus Medical Art. All rights reserved.

This document is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.