Everything You Need to Know about Orthopedic Foot Surgery

Your foot consists of 26 bones, 33 joints, and multiple tendons, ligaments, and muscles. Unfortunately, various conditions can affect the foot, cause pain and discomfort that prevent you from walking properly or make you feel unable to perform various day-to-day obligations. Doctors recommend various treatments to manage these conditions, but in cases when they don’t work, a surgery poses as the only solution. There are different types of foot surgery, and this article will discuss the most common procedures as well as conditions they treat.

Bunion surgery

A bunion is defined as a painful swelling which forms on the joint at the base of the big toe. The swelling is formed when the big toe pushes against the next toe, thus forcing the joint to increase in size and stick out.

There are multiple types of bunion surgery depending on the severity of the bunion and the joint involvement. In fact, there are more than 100 different surgeries performed on bunions and the current research data doesn’t pinpoint which procedure is the best or most effective.

The surgery involves an incision in the top or side of the big toe joint and the realignment or removal of soft tissue and bone. The surgeon might use screws, wires, or plates whose purpose is to hold the bones in place. Stitches are removed between 7 and 21 days.

The recovery period usually lasts between six weeks and six months; it depends on the amount of soft tissue and bone that are affected by this swelling. In some cases, it can take up to a year to recover entirely after a bunion surgery.

It is necessary to keep the foot covered when taking a shower to keep the stitches dry. The doctor may also recommend special shoes, cast, or splint to keep the operated area intact and allow it to heal. A patient usually gets to wear regular shoes in about four to five weeks.


During this procedure, the orthopedic surgeon realigns the toes after the bunion is removed. There are two types of osteotomy: proximal and distal. In proximal surgery, the surgeon uses an incision at the end of the bone, while in the distal procedure the surgeon moves the bone sideways through one or two incisions.

The surgery is also an effective solution for individuals who want to get rid of hammer toe when conservative treatments fail. Conservative measures usually include finding shoes with soft and spacious toe boxes to accommodate the hammer toe.


Cheilectomy is the procedure whose main aim is to remove a bony lump on the top of the main joint of the big toe. The lump is almost always caused by arthritis of the big toe; the condition is also known as hallux rigidus. According to a study published in the Journal of Foot and Ankle Surgery, cheilectomy offers a long-term satisfaction for patients with hallux rigidus and poses as an acceptable alternative to the joint-destructive procedures.

During the operation, a cut is made on the side of the big toe. The surgeon removes the lump, then the joint is flushed out to see the severity of arthritis. After that, the joint is stitched up and dressings applied.

Heel surgery

Heel surgery is performed primarily to address heel spurs. A heel spur is a calcium deposit that causes a bony protrusion on the underside of the heel bone. Although heel spurs are often painless, in some instances they can cause pain and they’re frequently associated with plantar fasciitis which is a painful inflammation of the fibrous band of the connective tissue running along the bottom of the foot and connects the heel bone to the ball of the foot.

The primary aim of the heel surgery is to provide relief from the excruciating pain that other treatments can’t treat. The type of surgical procedure depends on the condition and the nature of the problem, but usually involves release of plantar fascia with or without heel spur excision.

It is important to follow post-surgical recommendations that include taking a rest, keeping the foot elevated, and when to place weight on the operated foot. In some cases, it might be necessary for patients to use casts, splints, bandages, crutches, and surgical shoes.


Foot fusion is performed to join permanently or stiffen the joint between arthritic bones. Besides arthritis, foot fusion also treats flat feet and previous injuries such as fractures caused by wear and tear to bones and cartilage.

The operation is usually performed under general anesthesia with an added injection in the leg to numb the foot after the surgery and reduce the pain. In most cases, the surgeon makes one or two incisions in the foot to remove painful or damaged joint and stiffen bones with screws and plates.

The recovery depends on the severity of joint damage, but also on the patient’s ability to follow doctor’s orders. It’s expected that patient fully bears the weight and wears his/her own shoes after 12 weeks.

Tendon Repair

The main goal of tendon repair is to treat a torn or damaged tendon. The tendon damage is usually a result of an injury. Other types of tendon repair include shortening or lengthening the tendon, depending on the problem.

Duration of the procedure depends on the problem, but it usually lasts up to 90 minutes. During tendon repairs, a patient is usually asleep and the surgeon also gives spinal anesthesia to numb the patient waist down.

After the completion of the surgery, the patient may need to use crutches for about six weeks and rest as much as possible with the operated foot elevated.


There are numerous surgeries whose aim is to relieve problems affecting the foot. The doctor may recommend surgery for some problem if standard treatments don’t work or if the intensity of the pain doesn’t decrease for quite some time. Regardless of the surgery, it’s necessary to keep the foot elevated, wear special shoes, use crutches, and protect the operated foot from any potential injury in order to let it heal properly.