I had a severe bunion operated on last year but it came back. After all the time it took to heal, I'm very disappointed. Does this happen very often?

There's always a risk of recurrence with reconstruction of the foot for hallux valgus (bunions). Some procedures are riskier than others. It may depend on the extent of the operation and the condition of the bone.

Patients with osteopenia (low bone mass) or osteoporosis (brittle bones) may have a delayed healing. This can compromise the operation, especially if pins or screws (fixation) are used to hold the bone in place.

Movement between bones can occur even with fixation. This can delay and even prevent healing from taking place. Older adults (over 60 years of age) tend to have more problems than younger patients. Other complications can include infection, joint stiffness, and joint arthritis.

Because of some of the problems that occur with corrective hallux valgus surgery, current procedures are being changed or modified. Fewer surgeons are doing the operation from underneath the foot. They are using an incision from the side of the foot instead. Malunion is less likely to occur with this approach.

Some patients just aren't good candidates for this surgery. Severe arthritis of the first toe joints and severe foot instability may be two reasons conservative care is used instead of operative care.

It’s possible there is a simple solution to your failed surgery. A revision (second) operation may be able to correct the problem. Ask your surgeon what (if any) are your options at this point.

Reference: 

H. - J. Trnka, MD, et al. Intermediate-Term Results of the Ludloff Osteotomy in One Hundred and Eleven Feet. In Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. March 2008. Vol. 90. No. 3. Pp. 531-539.

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