A bunionectomy is surgery to remove a bunion. A bunionectomy removes the bump that forms on the side of the big toe joint and realigns the big toe back to its natural straight position.

Types of Bunionectomy Surgery

  • Open-Foot Bunionectomy
  • Minimally Invasive Bunionectomy

What is an Open-Foot Bunionectomy?

This is the type of bunionectomy you hear horror stories about.

The term “open-foot bunionectomy” refers to traditional bunion surgery, in which a 5 to 6 inch incision is made in order to expose the entire joint and surrounding skeletal structure.  An open-foot bunionectomy involves cutting and sometimes breaking the big toe joint and bone, then realigning them and using plates, pins, screws, wire and other hardware to stabilize the realignment.

Open-foot surgery takes place in a hospital because patients must be rendered unconscious, which creates its own realm of adverse effects including a sore throat from the breathing tube, waking up confused and several hours, sometimes days, of becoming fully aware.

The recovery process for an open-foot procedure is a long, painful ordeal, often lasting up to a year.  Recovery entails long-term immobilization and pain management.  Patients are often told not to put any weight on the foot for 6 weeks or more.  Pain is often reported a year after surgery and intense pain is usually reported for the first few months.  Taking opioid or narcotic pain killers for this long will make anyone an addict.

Typically, patients must wear a hard cast or a boot that goes all the way to the knee for one to three months after the surgery. Patients will then need complete reconditioning physical therapy to get the newly-healed foot, ankle and calf back in working condition after months of non-use.  Custom shoe inserts might also be permanently required.

How is minimally invasive bunion surgery different?

A minimally invasive bunionectomy is a far better alternative to the open-foot method described above.  The entire procedure takes less than 2 hours, including pre- and post-op.  Many clients have described this type of bunion surgery as, “An excellent experience.”

For a minimally invasive bunion removal procedure, a local anesthetic is used.  You stay conscious and aware the entire time.  The doctor will make 3 small incisions in your foot, each about 1/4 inch long, to access the surgery site. The doctor uses specialized instruments to remove the bunion and straighten the toe back to its natural position.  One single stitch closes each opening.  The doctor then wraps your foot in a soft gauze bandage, velcros on a small supportive boot and you walk out of the operation bunion free and usually pain-free.  Patients sometimes report minimal pain, which goes away with common over-the-counter pain pills.  The entire procedure takes about 45 minutes.

Without general anesthesia, you remain fully aware.  Since your foot is not in pain, you can even drive yourself home or back to work immediately following the surgery.

Most preferred technique:

A Minimally Invasive Bunionectomy is by far the most preferred surgical technique to get rid of bunions.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bunionectomies


What is a Bunionectomy Osteotomy?

A bunionectomy osteotomy is a bunion removal procedure that cuts part of the big toe bone in order to straighten the big toe. A bunionectomy is a surgical procedure that removes a bunion and straitens the big toe back to it’s natural straight position. Osteotomy describes a method of straightening the big toe in which a portion of the bone is removed.

What Can I Expect After A Bunionectomy?

It depends on the type of bunionectomy. After an open-foot bunionectomy, you can expect a great deal of pain, long immobilization and long recovery. After a minimally invasive bunionectomy, you can expect to walk out of the operation with almost no pain, no immobilization and a fast recovery.

Will a bunion get worse if I don’t have a bunionectomy?

Unfortunately, yes. Bunions are progressive, meaning they tend to get worse when left untreated. Home remedies such as bunion correctors, toe spacers, toe stretches and other home treatments might slow the progression of a bunion and maybe even temporarilly reduce pain, but none of them address the imbalance within the foot that causes the bunion. Even with home treatments, bunions tend to get worse as time goes on.