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Bunion surgery

Your comprehensive guide to what happens during bunion surgery

Doctor examining a patient's foot who needs bunion surgery
Bunion surgery is a procedure that involves the removal of a bony bump on the side of your feet next to your big toe. This bony bump (or bunion) is caused by the tip of your big toe being pulled toward your smaller toes, meaning your joint (the place where two bones join together) at the base of your big toe sticks out. As a result, you may experience swelling, stiffness, and pain - especially when you're walking or wearing shoes. A bunion may form when your joint experiences stress over a prolonged period of time. This might be due to wearing uncomfortable shoes, arthritis, or be inherited as a family trait.

If your bunion is not causing you pain, you won't need surgery. Conservative treatments like rest, changing footwear, and medications can often solve the problem. However, in cases where your bunion is severe, limits your everyday activities, and hasn't responded to non-surgical treatments, your consultant may recommend private bunion surgery. There are a series of surgical procedures that your surgeon might use, depending on the nature of your specific problem.

To learn more about bunion surgery, or other treatments for foot and ankle problems, our experienced consultants are here to help you. Call 0141 300 5009 or book online today and you could have your initial consultation within 48 hours.

This page outlines everything you should know about bunion surgery, including its cost, different procedures, and your possible recovery timeline.

The final cost of bunion surgery will depend on various factors personal to you, but we've included some guide prices below to give you an idea.

If you are paying for your own treatment, we offer fixed-price packages so you know exactly what you'll pay ahead of time. This fixed price includes all necessary aftercare and follow-up appointments, but your initial consultation and any diagnostics done at the time will be charged separately.

Self-pay patients can take advantage of our flexible payment options, which allow you to spread the cost of treatment over a period of one to five years, with interest-free options available.

If you have private health insurance, bunion surgery will usually be covered by your policy. Speak to your provider directly to find out.

The cost of bunion repair surgery

Please be aware that the following prices are a guide price. Your final price will be confirmed in writing following your consultation and any necessary diagnostic tests.

Patient pathway Initial consultation Diagnostic Investigations Main treatment Post discharge care Guide price
Hospital fees N/A Not included £5,250 Included £5,250
Consultants fees from £200 N/A Included Included £200
Guide price £5,450

The cost of bunion repair (with soft tissue release) surgery

Please be aware that the following prices are a guide price. Your final price will be confirmed in writing following your consultation and any necessary diagnostic tests.

Patient pathway Initial consultation Diagnostic Investigations Main treatment Post discharge care Guide price
Hospital fees N/A Not included £5,350 Included £5,350
Consultants fees from £200 N/A Included Included £200
Guide price £5,550

There are a number of signs that you might have a bunion - the most obvious being a bulging bump on the outside of the base of your big toe. Other symptoms may include:

  • Swelling, redness, and/or soreness in your big toe
  • Corns or calluses (thick, hardened layers of skin) due to first and second toes rubbing against each other
  • Ongoing pain in your toe, especially when walking and/or wearing shoes
  • Reduced movement and/or numbness in your big toe

Bunions tend to develop gradually. If you put constant pressure on your big toe joint (known as the metatarsophalangeal joint), it causes your big toe to bend towards your second toe. Over time, the position of your bone, tendons, and ligaments changes, resulting in a bump forming on the outside of your big toe. Your bunion probably won't be painful to start with. If left untreated, however, your bunion can worsen over time and make it difficult for you to wear shoes and/or walk.

Bunions do not have a specific cause, but there are many risk factors that may increase your chances of developing bunions and make the issue worse. Some of these include:

Your footwear

If you wear shoes that are too tight, too small, or shoes that have high heels and/or pointy toes, you will cause your toes to crowd together and place pressure on the outside of your big toe, causing it to bend inward towards your second toe. Over time, having your big toe locked in this position changes the position of your joint and can lead to a bunion developing.


If you have arthritis - in particular rheumatoid arthritis - you are more likely to develop a bunion on your big toe. Due to the way arthritis causes the joints in your feet to become swollen, the erosion of the protective tissue (or cartilage) around your joints can lead to them shifting/dislocating over time and bending inwards, which leads to the forming of a bunion.


Bunions are often caused by the mechanical structure of your foot, which can be inherited from your family. There are certain foot types, such as flat feet (when arches on the inside of your feet flatten when pressure is put on them), that may make you more prone to developing bunions.

Your consultant will ask you some questions about your bunion, such as how long it has been present for, what symptoms you are experiencing, and whether you’ve had any treatment already. They shall also ask about your general health and broader medical history. Due to the fact that bunions have visible symptoms (a bony bump on the outside of your big toe), your consultant should be able to diagnose your bunion based on your symptoms and how your toe looks.

To understand the severity of your bunion further, your consultant may also order an X-ray. Foot X-rays provide images of the bones in your toe, allowing them to check the alignment of your toes and see if your joint has become damaged, along with whether arthritis is the cause of your bunion. The alignment of the bones in your toe changes depending on whether you stand or sit, so your consultant will perform the X-ray while you are standing to get a better view of the way your big toe is aligned.

After confirming that you have a bunion, your consultant will most likely start off by recommending a series of non-surgical treatments. Some of these include:

Adjusting footwear

Your consultant may suggest that you wear roomier, more comfortable shoes that provide space for your toes and don't put constant pressure on them. They might also recommend over-the-counter bunion pads, which can act as a buffer between your foot and shoe. Another popular non-surgical treatment for bunions is orthotics - padded shoe inserts that distribute pressure evenly when you move your feet, which reduces the levels of pressure on your big toe and prevents your bunion from getting worse.


To reduce the levels of pain and swelling in your big toe, your consultant could also prescribe a series of oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen. A corticosteroid injection (injecting a highly effective anti-inflammatory agent into the affected area) may also be used.


There are also some exercises that you can do to relieve your pain and increase your toe's flexibility. Your consultant will give you some bunion exercises designed to improve your gait, muscle strength, foot mobility, and moderately improve alignment - although exercise alone won't correct the bone misalignment caused by your bunion. Massage therapy may be used as well to break up any soft tissue (muscles, ligaments, and tendons) that has stuck together because of constant pressure.

If your bunion is severe, and non-surgical treatments have not improved your symptoms, your consultant may recommend bunion surgery. They will explain what you need to do before you have your procedure.

Get your home recovery-ready

For the first two weeks after your bunion surgery, you will need to stay off your feet as much as possible, which means you won't be able to make any quick trips to the shops. So, ahead of coming to the hospital, be sure to gather all the supplies you need for when you're recovering at home. And if you need anything else during this period, see if a friend or family member can get it for you.

If you sleep on the second or third floor, it would be best to move your bed down to the ground floor and set up your recovery space there, as this will save you from having to make constant trips up the stairs as you heal from surgery. Think about removing any potential tripping hazards as well (loose flooring, furniture, general mess, etc.).


You may need some preoperative tests, such as blood tests, cardiograms, and a chest X-ray, to help your surgeon confirm you have a healthy heart and won't experience any bleeding issues during and/or after surgery. Additional foot X-rays might also be required; these tests help your surgeon decide where exactly along your bone they will perform the surgery to ensure they can properly straighten your toe.

Discuss medications

As is the case before any surgery, your consultant will check what medications you are currently taking. If you are on blood thinners, such as aspirin, warfarin, or anti-inflammatories, they may ask that you stop taking these two weeks before your surgery to ensure against any unwanted bleeding during and/or after the procedure.

Stop smoking

We always recommend that you stop smoking at least a week before your bunion surgery. Smokers are at a greater risk of encountering problems during recovery from surgery, as well as being more likely to experience breathing and/or heart issues. If you need some help with smoking cessation, or have any questions, get in touch with your consultant.

Food and drink

If your operation is going to be done under general anaesthetic, refrain from eating or drinking anything on the day of your operation, and don't drink alcohol 48 hours prior to the surgery.

Arrange transport

You won't be able to drive after your bunion surgery, nor will it be safe for you to get public transport due to the anaesthetic, so think about arranging a lift home after your operation - either with a family member/friend or a taxi.

Usually, bunion surgery is performed under local anaesthetic, which means your surgeon will numb your foot and you'll be awake during the operation, although you won't see the procedure or feel anything. Sometimes, general anaesthetic is used instead, in which case you'll be asleep for the entire procedure. This is generally an outpatient surgery; you'll be able to go home on the same day.

There are several types of bunion surgery that your surgeon may use for your bunion, depending on the specific nature and severity of your issue. The three main surgical procedures used to treat bunions are an osteotomy, exostectomy, or arthrodesis.


The most common type of surgery for bunions, an osteotomy involves your surgeon creating a small incision into the site of the bunion. Using special tools, they will then make small cuts to parts of your toe bone that have become enlarged, sometimes removing small wedges of bone as well, which in turn realigns the shape of your joint. After doing this, your surgeon fixes your joint with pins, screws, or plates, which makes sure that your bone stays straight and your joint is balanced.


This procedure is often used alongside an osteotomy, given that an exostectomy alone doesn't realign your joint. Your surgeon will use a specialist tool that allows them to shave off the bump from your toe joint and restore your toe to its normal shape. You will only receive this treatment for minor bunions, and it is possible the bunion may return if this procedure isn't done alongside an osteotomy.


If your bunion is extremely severe, or has been caused by inflammation due to arthritis, your surgeon will most likely use this procedure. Arthrodesis involves your surgeon making an incision into your bunion and removing parts of your big toe joint that are damaged and/or have arthritis. Having removed all the affected parts of your joint, they will then use screws, wires, or plates to hold your bones together while they heal.

How quickly you recover from bunion surgery depends on the type of procedure you had, along with how well you follow your consultant's instructions about looking after your foot and its dressing during those first few weeks. Other factors can influence your rate of recovery, such as your age, fitness levels, and general health.

One to seven days after surgery

After your operation, you will be given some time to rest. You may experience some discomfort. If you do, we will make sure you are given all the pain relief medication that you need. A bandage would have been placed over your foot, and you'll be required to use crutches and wear a special shoe.

You probably won't be able to put any weight on your foot right away. When you're recovering at home, keep your foot elevated and propped up by pillows. Apply ice at regular intervals as well. This helps with your swelling and levels of discomfort. Be sure to rest your foot as much as possible and avoid altering your dressings. If you do, you might interfere with healing and cause your bunion to return, so take care to avoid getting the dressing wet during these early stages.

One to three weeks after surgery

After around a week, you should be able to put weight on your foot while still wearing your post-operative sandal, which must be kept on when you walk. Your dressings will be removed after about two weeks, but your foot will continue to need support from dressings and/or a brace for a minimum of six weeks after surgery. Keep your foot iced as much as possible.

If you have a job that doesn't require walking and/or standing (e.g., a desk job), you may be able to return to work two weeks after surgery, provided you can keep your affected foot at waist height while you work. If keeping your foot at waist height isn't an option, you'll be away for more like a month to six weeks. You can probably start driving again after two weeks in cases where surgery was performed on your left foot and you drive an automatic car.

During this period, you can also do some light exercises that increase the strength and range of motion in your toe. Your physiotherapist will provide a full rehabilitation programme that is closely adapted to you and your situation.

Three weeks to two months after surgery

You'll need to keep wearing your post-operative sandal until around the six-week mark - unless your consultant tells you differently. After this, transition to shoes that are wide and comfy to reduce the risks of your bunion returning. You should keep your foot elevated whenever possible, as there will still be some swelling, which continues for at least three months and can, in some cases, last for a year.

If you have a job that involves standing and/or walking, you can return to work after six weeks. Manual labour jobs will require a period away of more like eight weeks, but this could be less for you. The amount of discomfort and swelling at this stage varies from person to person, so speak to your consultant about when it's safe for you to go back to work. You should also be able to start driving again after six weeks if the surgery was on your right foot and/or you need to use clutch control.

During this period, you will be able to step up your rehabilitation programme. This might include weight-bearing exercises, along with stretches and exercises that encourage improved balance and overall strength. After three months or so, your bone should have healed, and you will most likely be back to doing normal activities.

Bunion surgery is a common surgery, but sometimes complications can occur. Your consultant will walk you through all the risks and answer any questions you might have prior to booking you in for your operation.

General complications of any operation

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Infection in the surgical wound
  • Unsightly scarring
  • Blood clots
  • Difficulty passing urine
  • Chest infection
  • Heart attack or stroke

Specific complications of bunion surgery

  • Your dressing loosens, comes off, gets wet, or is moistened by blood and/or drainage
  • Side effects from post-operative medications
  • Your bunion comes back
  • Pain in the ball of your foot
  • Severe pain, stiffness, and/or loss of use of your foot
  • Loss of movement in your big toe
  • Problems with your bone healing
  • Persistent fever
  • Chills
  • Persistent warmth or redness around your dressing
  • Swelling in the calf above your treated foot
  • Nerve damage

When you choose to go private with Circle Health Group, you can expect:

  • Flexible appointment times and locations to fit your schedule
  • The freedom to choose which hospital and consultant best matches your needs
  • Personalised, consultant-led treatment plans tailored to your particular requirements
  • Comfortable and safe private facilities maintained by expert multidisciplinary teams
  • Private ensuite rooms as standards and delicious healthy meals
  • Affordable, fixed-price packages with aftercare included
  • Flexible payment options to help you spread the cost of your care

If you would like to learn more about this procedure, book your appointment online today or call a member of our team directly on 0141 300 5009.

Content reviewed by Circle in-house team in November 2022. Next review due November 2025.

  1. Bunions, Mayo Clinic
  2. Bunion misdiagnosis, Creaky Joints
  3. Bunions, NHS
  4. Bunion surgery, OrthoInfo

Treatment for bunions

Consultant podiatric surgeon Mr Ben Yates explains more about surgical treatment for bunions, which is usually a minimally invasive procedure to correct bunions (bony lumps that form on the side of your feet).

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