Pediatric Bunion Surgery
If conservative treatment fails to relieve pain, bunion surgery may be an option
Bunion Surgery Overview, Treatment, and What to Expect
What Is Pediatric Bunion Surgery?
Pediatric bunion surgery typically involves removing or realigning bone or soft tissue near the top or side of the big toe joint. There are several types of bunion surgery. The type your child needs depends on their unique condition.
What Are Bunions?
Bunions are a bony-like growth that forms at the joint where the big toe meets the rest of the foot. The condition causes the big toe to point toward the other toes instead of outward. Bunions are typically bilateral, meaning they appear on each foot.
No one knows exactly why bunions form, but the condition is most likely hereditary and more common in females than males. Bunions often don’t appear until after age 10.
How Are Bunions Treated?
Pediatric Foot & Ankle nearly always recommends beginning with non-surgical treatment for pediatric bunions. Children’s feet keep growing until age 15 or 16. Surgery performed while the child’s feet are still growing risks harming the growth plate. There is also greater risk a second surgery would be needed, since bones and joints are still developing.
Conservative treatment for bunions may include:
- Wearing appropriate shoe gear to accommodate your child’s foot type
- Avoiding pointed toe boxes and shoes with high heels
- Exercises and stretches to strengthen foot muscles
- One of the most effective conservative treatment options, custom orthotics help alleviate pain and improve function
Dr. Jarman typically prefers at least six months of conservative treatment before considering surgery.
Who Needs Pediatric Bunion Surgery?
As with adults, bunions in children are fairly common. And, in both cases, the condition rarely requires surgery. Most children do not experience pain from their bunions and conservative treatment is typically very successful. However, if your child’s condition is severe, causing pain and/or difficulty wearing shoes, bunion surgery may be indicated.
Types of Bunion Surgery
There are many types of bunion surgery for children. The most common are:
- Removal of the bunion, known as a bunionectomy or exostectomy.
- Cutting and realigning the affected joint, known as osteotomy.
- Repairing the soft tissue (e.g. tendons and ligaments) that surrounds the big toe. This procedure may be combined with osteotomy.
Again, bunion surgery is reserved for severe cases where the condition impacts your child’s daily life.
What to Expect After Bunion Surgery
Recovery time depends on your child’s particular procedure. However, common aftercare instructions include:
- Wearing a cast or boot to ensure the toe stays properly aligned for 4 to 6 weeks
- Keeping weight off the foot for 6 to 8 weeks
- Resuming normal activities in about 2 months
Full recovery time may be anywhere from 6 months to 1 year. For best results, always follow your podiatrist’s post-surgery instructions exactly.