Avera Medical Minute: Surgery Options for Bunions and Foot Issues

Published: Oct. 16, 2023 at 9:40 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - It’s estimated that a third of the US population’s feet are impacted by foot issues such as bunions.

Jenneka Gherian, a 17-year-old from Lester, Iowa knows the pain.

“It was like I was having, like, jabbing pains up my leg and just throbbing, tingling, and stuff like that,” she said.

“Bunions aren’t as common in younger people, but they are usually genetic, and usually when they start to develop in younger people, they’re just not as painful and bothersome until you get older,” said Dr. Brian Dix, a podiatrist and orthopedic surgeon with Avera Orthopedics.

Jenneka says there were a lot of activities that she missed out on throughout her childhood because of the pain and discomfort in her feet.

“I couldn’t run a lot or play sports like my family’s very into playing basketball and I couldn’t do any sports without having pain,” said Gherian.

In addition to the bunions, Jenneka also has a condition called metatarsus adductus. This is where the bones in her feet turn in, in addition to the bones in her big toe also turning. Which doesn’t allow for a quick correction of the bunion. To fix this, Dr. Dix first needed to repair the metatarsus adductus in Jenneka’s 2nd and 3rd toes.

“What’s unique now, though, is we used to have to make all those cuts by hand. So now there are jigs and instruments out there which we can put onto the foot and help get the correction that we need. But it’s reproducible every time to get the correction to correct the second and third metatarsals and then to correct the bunion,” Said Dr. Dix.

“So I had my left one done first and then I had my right foot done this past February,” Said Gherian.

During surgery, Jennka underwent an osteotomy, where Dr. Dix took a wedge of bone out of her second and third metatarsals, which allowed him to pivot the bones back into correct alignment.

After that, he was able to correct the bunion by turning her big toe also back into correct and straight alignment. In most cases, Bunions are caused by genetics and exacerbated by tight or ill-fitting shoes.

For many years, the common practice was to wait until a bunion became too painful before recommending surgery, but early intervention and new technology are changing that belief.

“What we found is actually if we can fix bunions sooner before they get arthritis down in them, then we can correct it before there’s a bigger issue and we can do different procedures that can preserve the first metatarsal joint where the bunion is at. Also, we found by correcting it back farther in the foot, we found that the correction is able to last longer and the chance of recurrence is much lower,” said Dr. Dix

Jenneka is out of surgery and both feet are back to full weight bearing, meaning she can finally be free of the pain and take full advantage of her newfound freedoms.

“Because my foot shrank like a few centimeters after the surgery, now I can fit into the shoes that I wanted to fit in more. I can work now and I won’t have near as much pain, obviously sometimes your feet still hurt by the end of the day, but otherwise, no throbbing, no jabbing pains or anything. So I can do everything!” said Gherian.

If you’re experiencing bunion-related foot pain the best place to start is by telling your primary care provider and developing a care plan.

If conservative measures aren’t working they can direct you to the next level of care and help get you the relief you need. For more information on podiatry and orthopedic care options, go to Avera.org/MedicalMinute.