The Complexities of Traditional Bunion Surgery
Bunions are painful, unsightly and mysterious. They affect about a third of all women over the age of 65, but younger people, including males, also get them. Until recently, there hasn’t been a simple solution or cure for bunions.
Conventional foot surgery can be extremely debilitating. People cringe at the thought of having their feet sliced open. Rightfully so, those who suffer from foot ailments like bunions, heel spurs, and hammertoes often put off foot surgery until they are forced to medically.
People will try every possible alternative before surrendering to the last resort of conventional foot surgery. Most people with painful, unsightly bunions choose to suffer throughout life instead of undergoing the often horror of invasive foot surgery.
Why is traditional foot surgery such a complex undertaking with a long, painful recovery? There are many reasons which until recently, have challenged modern medicine to find a solution acceptable to patients.
The foot is a complex organism. The foot has 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments which interact and each serves a specific purpose. It is very easy to disrupt this delicate network.
The foot is a complex system, and one small imbalance can cause long-term deformities which can last a lifetime. The irregularities can cause a great deal of pain and even debilitate the unfortunate person who suffers from them.
For example, the flexor and extensor tendons are naturally off-center in a healthy foot and are kept in place by an intricate interplay between many ligaments and muscles which can be put out of balance by any number of forces, both internal and external. Once the balance is thrown off, the flexor and extensor tendons will continue to be pulled out of their natural position. The condition can progress faster as it gets worse because the compensating forces become less effective.
This particular imbalance leads to bunions. One of the external causes might be wearing shoes that don’t fit properly. Bunions can also be hereditary, which is an example of an external force that causes them.
Feet and Surgery
Foot surgery comes with many inherent concerns that are not present with operations in other parts of the body.
For example, the foot is the furthest body part from the heart. This distance causes a heightened risk of poor circulation at the surgery site, which will slow healing and increase the risk of infection. After conventional surgery, the foot is elevated to decrease swelling. The problem is, raising the foot decreases circulation even further because the blood must be pumped up, against gravity.
The foot is subject to higher mechanical stresses than other parts of the body. As previously stated, it is a complex system in which a delicate balance between opposing forces must in balance. It also bears the entire weight of the body and is subject to uneven, unpredictable terrain.
Another consideration is that the soft tissue surrounding the foot is thinner than it is around other parts of the body. Healing occurs more slowly where there is thin soft tissue, than when it is thicker.
The foot’s natural complexity, distance from the heart, internal and external stresses and soft tissue all contribute to the fact that traditional foot surgery comes with challenges not present with operations in other parts of the body.
Different surgeons have different experiences, and each one is more comfortable in the areas where they are most experienced. While this is only natural, it will affect their recommendations of foot surgery procedures.
As we touched on earlier, there are many different surgical procedures for the same foot ailment; what the surgeon is most comfortable personally performing is not necessarily what could be best for the patient.
Everyone is different. A person’s activity level, age, health, diet, and lifestyle are all factors to consider when thinking about different types of foot surgery. Younger, more active people might be more suited for a procedure that would not be ideal for someone who is older and less active.
Younger patients must maintain movement in the big toe to re-establish the natural anatomy of the forefoot. In older patients, a procedure that fuses the joint, rendering it immobile, is often considered.
Most traditional bunion procedures will limit the range of motion of the big toe. This restriction is not desirable for people who want to remain active throughout their lives.
The Severity of the Foot Problem
For mild cases, non-invasive methods, like wraps, splints and other apparatus can be worn, but these do not correct the bunion. At best, they might temporarily alleviate some of the pain.
In one surgical procedure for less severe bunions, a ‘V’ shape is cut into the joint of the big toe; this allows the surgeon to straighten the toe, but requires the insertion of a screw into the joint to keep the toe in place.
For more severe cases, the soft tissue must be further disturbed. Different methods of straightening the toe are employed. Plates, screws and other hardware are often used to correct the toe and keep it in place.
In severe cases mostly involving more elderly patients, resection arthroplasty is often performed removing the bottom of the toe joint with the big toe left immobilized entirely. This procedure affects the balance of the patient and also changes the anatomy of the foot. When one part of the complex foot system is altered, every part of the system is changed, even beyond the foot. Over time, this causes problems in other areas of the foot and may also affect the ankles, knees and lower back.
The Modern Solution
As you can see, traditional foot surgery is terrible in many ways. So what’s a person to do? There is a much safer, virtually painless alternative that replaces months of recovery and often life-long consequences.
With an average of 10-15% complication rate for conventional bunion surgery, a better solution is needed. The incision is small, and the soft tissue disturbed as little as possible.
Patients usually report that it is pain-free, and they’re mobile immediately after the surgery. They walk out of the surgery and go up and down stairs with no problem. Many don’t even take pain medication.
Our minimally-invasive procedure has been making national news. It is becoming widely accepted and praised by patients who undergo them.