Since I began practicing podiatry almost ten years ago, I have seen patients with a wide variety of foot and ankle problems. Many of these issues are commonly seen as we age. However, one condition that stands out as particularly disruptive and painful is bunions. While bunions are commonly thought of as overgrowths of bone or callouses on the side of the big toe, they are actually a complex bone deformity that impacts about 25% of the US population¹.
Bunions can develop at any age, but they progressively worsen over time
There is a popular myth that only older women develop bunions and that they are caused by years of wearing high heels and narrow shoes. This is far from the truth.
Bunions are a complex bone deformity that commonly runs in families². The condition is caused by unstable bones in the top of the foot that allow the big toe to drift out of alignment. Anyone can develop them regardless of age, gender or lifestyle. However, the deformity worsens over time and often begins causing patients pain as they age. Many suffering from bunions find themselves forced to cut back on or eliminate the physical activities they once enjoyed.
There are many nonsurgical methods marketed to ease the pain and discomfort bunions can cause, but only surgery can actually correct the bone deformity. Many of my patients seek treatment after months, or even years of trying to manage their pain with various splints, pads, shoe inserts, steroid shots, and pain medications.
Traditional surgical treatments aren’t the right fit for all patients
For decades, there have been various stigmas attached to bunions. In addition to causing pain, their unsightly appearance inspires many patients to hide their feet and avoid talking about the condition or seeking treatment. When they finally visited a doctor, they were often apprehensive about undergoing traditional surgery.
Historically, bunions have typically been addressed using an approach called a 2D osteotomy. The procedure, also known as “shave it off” surgery, involves cutting the protruding bone off the side of the big toe and sliding the bones back into place. It usually requires patients to remain non-weightbearing for six to eight weeks. The procedure also comes with about a 70% risk that the bunion will recur over time. The approach’s reputation is daunting and intimidating to many patients, especially those who enjoy active lifestyles.
Lapiplasty® 3D Bunion Correction™ addresses the root cause of the deformity
After years of seeing patients grow frustrated with traditional surgical options, I began performing Lapiplasty® 3D Bunion Correction™. The procedure was cleared by the FDA in 2016 and involves using a system of patented titanium plates to secure the misaligned bones in the foot in their proper positions. The approach addresses all three dimensions of the bunion deformity and as a result, corrects the cosmetic bump on the side of the big toe.
Many of my patients who undergo Lapiplasty® are able to bear weight on their foot while wearing a walking boot within days after surgery. After about four months, the average patient is able to return to their usual physical activities. The procedure is covered by most insurances.
Helping patients from all walks of life
As a physician, being able to help patients who suffer from potentially debilitating conditions and see them return to the activities they love never gets old. In the brief time that Lapiplasty® has been available, myself and other providers like me have been able to help marathon runners, dancers, nurses, teachers, retirees, athletes, stay-at-home parents and even teenagers who faced severe pain caused by bunions.
I encourage anyone who is suffering from the inconvenience and discomfort of bunions to make an appointment with a qualified Lapiplasty® provider in their area to see if they are a candidate for the procedure. There is no need to suffer in silence!
For more information about the Lapiplasty® Procedure, visit Lapiplasty.com/babyboomers. To schedule an appointment with me, call (973) 376-8210 or visit EssexUnionPodiatry.com.
Author Bio: Dr. Sarah Haller is a fellowship trained foot and ankle surgeon at Essex Union Podiatry with a professional focus on musculoskeletal deformities, sports medicine, and post-traumatic reconstruction and revision surgery of the foot and ankle. Her practice is a Lapiplasty® Center of Distinction and she has been performing the procedure since 2020. She is board qualified by the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery for forefoot and hindfoot surgery and is Founder of the New Jersey Foot and Ankle Foundation.
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