New minimally-invasive bunionectomy challenges traditional methods for painless relief

Denise Dador Image
Saturday, March 9, 2024
New bunionectomy challenges traditional methods for painless relief
New bunionectomy challenges traditional methods for painless relief

Bunions are small bony bumps on toes that cause tremendous pain. Surgery is the solution, but a traditional method is being challenged by a newer, groundbreaking procedure called a minimal bunionectomy.

On dog walks, sharp pain would stop Megan Christopher in her tracks.

"I remember stopping and really crying," she said.

She's always on her feet as a busy mom of three teenage daughters, but bony growths on her toes called bunions caused her agony.

"At night, when I finally took my shoes off and would be sitting down, my foot would just throb," said Christopher.

After a painful open bunionectomy a few years ago, she investigated a new procedure called a minimally-invasive bunionectomy.

"Now, we use tools that allow us to do these small keyhole incisions, to do that same sort of precise cut. Patients, for the first two months, will have much less pain and swelling with the minimally-invasive techniques than with the traditional invasive open bunion surgery," said Dr. Rebecca Cerrato with the Institute for Foot and Ankle Reconstruction at Mercy in Baltimore.

How do people get bunions? It may surprise you that poor-fitting footwear isn't at the top of the list.

"Most people come in and there's, probably, multiple causes, even for that person. It's not just bad shoe wear or high heels. Probably the most common cause is genetics," said Cerrato.

Patients who undergo a minimally-invasive bunionectomy can usually get into a normal shoe within six weeks and progress to biking and walking. Megan's added bonus was not having to look at her distorted feet.

"Yeah, I'm back, like, you know, I can get in shoes, and sometimes I'm walking in my closet and I'll stop and I'm like, 'Oh my gosh, those are my feet. They look so good, like, they look so normal!" Christopher said.

The smaller, minimally-invasive incisions are performed with specialized instruments to realign the foot and remove pressure.

Doctors caution that not all bunions can be treated by this new surgical approach and that the bunions may come back, but are usually not as painful.