Achieving a faster recovery after a bunion operation

Mr Sam Singh | November 14, 2022 | Video

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Mr Sam Singh explains the recovery process following bunion correction surgery and ways to improve recovery times.

How can patients improve their recovery in the first few weeks following bunion surgery?

Sam: So, I let patients go home on the same day as the operation and I always say to my patients, you will walk from the hospital bed to the car after the operation. They are allowed to weight bear on the foot and we give them a special surgical shoe which has a stiff sole. Crutches are optional. If you have a sore foot and you have strong arms, you might use crutches. But if you haven't got strong arms, you can walk on it. So patients are allowed to weight bare. Patients are allowed to climb stairs immediately.

Bunion surgery: how do you get the best results?

What we find is - to get the best results - in the first two weeks I encourage my patients to try and elevate the leg as much as they can at home. And I would like patients to elevate their leg for 15 minutes at least, every hour. So that means that for most of the day they'll be sitting, not in bed, but they might be at their desk with their leg up. They might be on the sofa with their leg up and they may be in the kitchen with their leg up. But, they’re resting with their leg elevated. That's what I like to do for the first two weeks because that's when we want to make sure that the wounds are healing, and that the swelling and pain is under control.

If they do well at two weeks, then I push them much faster. In my practice, I will take them out of the plastic shoe into a hard shoe within about three to four weeks and have them walking in trainers.

How can patients deal with swelling after the operation?

Sam: One of the problems with any operation in the foot is that it does swell. And the foot will be swollen, but it's not a problem, because we know it's going to be swollen. So, though it's a discussion point that we always worry about, certainly it's not a permanent swelling. But it will be swollen for a few months, so the footwear options are a bit more limited.

How does movement and walking speed up recovery times?

Sam: I will get patients up and moving as you get good results if you get them walking quickly. This is because you get less swelling, you get less stiffness, you have less pain and you have quicker restoration to function. So, people ask ‘when can I walk my dog?’ and I’ll be quite happy for them to be walking their dog at four and half to five weeks.

When can patients return to sport… and more elegant shoes?

Sam: In terms of exercise and sport - running for example - I’m quite happy for them to start running around nine to ten weeks if they feel up to it, it’s not a problem, if they’re loading the foot properly. And in terms of wearing more elegant shoes, I tend to say about three to four months.

Can you operate on both feet at the same time?

Sam: Absolutely, I often will do. We call it bilateral bunions, operating on both feet in the same procedure. And the reason is that - it’s not twice as hard to recover from the operation, but it is about one and half time’s harder. But the key thing there is, as the clinician, I need to assess the patient, I need to see that they’ve got a suitable environment at home, they've got a supportive network of family, for example, around them - to help them in that initial phase, just to make it easier for them. But if it’s there, of course we can do it.

What is the likelihood of a bunion recurring after correction surgery?

Sam: Yes, bunions can come back. But, if the surgery is done well then the recurrence rates are extremely low. And they’re unlikely to come back to any of the degree of severity that they was there before. Modern bunion surgery involves breaking the bones and resetting the foot, and if you do that the recurrence rates are much lower.

Mr Sam Singh, is a prolific Consultant Foot & Ankle Surgeon whose London private practice is at London Bridge Hospital and The Lister Hospital, part of HCA Healthcare UK. For procedures of the foot and ankle other than bunion surgery, please call Compare my Care's concierge team on 020 8064 0875.

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