You had surgery to remove a deformity on your toe called a bunion. This article tells you how to take care of yourself when you go home from the hospital.
When You're in the Hospital
You had surgery to repair a bunion. The surgeon made an incision (cut) in your skin to expose the bones and joint at the base of your big toe. Your surgeon then repaired your deformed toe. You may have screws, wires, or a plate holding your toe joint together.
What to Expect at Home
You may have swelling in your foot. Keep your leg propped up on 1 or 2 pillows under your foot or calf muscle when you are sitting or lying down to reduce swelling. Swelling may last 9 to 12 months.
Keep the dressing around your incision clean and dry until it is removed. Take sponge baths or cover your foot and dressing with a plastic bag when you take showers if it is OK with your health care provider. Make sure water cannot leak into the bag.
You may need to wear a surgical shoe or cast for up to 8 weeks to keep your foot in the right position as it heals.
You will need to use a walker, cane, knee scooter, or crutches to avoid putting weight on your foot. Check with your surgeon before putting weight on your foot. You may be able to put some weight on your foot and walk short distances 2 or 3 weeks after surgery.
You will need to do exercises that will strengthen the muscles around your ankle and maintain the range of motion in your foot. Your provider or a physical therapist will teach you these exercises.
When you are able to wear shoes again, wear only athletic shoes or soft leather shoes for at least 3 months. Choose shoes that have plenty of room in the toe box. Do not wear narrow shoes or high heels for at least 6 months, if ever. Talk to your doctor about types of shoes that are right for your feet.
You will get a prescription for pain medicine. Get it filled when you go home so you have it when you need it. Take your pain medicine before you start having pain so that it does not get too bad.
Taking ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or another anti-inflammatory medicine may also help. Ask your provider what other medicines are safe to take with your pain medicine.
When to Call the Doctor
Contact your provider if:
- Your dressing becomes loose, comes off, or gets wet
- You have a fever or chills
- Your foot around the incision is warm or red
- Your incision is bleeding or you have drainage from the wound
- Your pain does not go away after you take pain medicine
- You have swelling, pain, and redness in your calf muscle
Bunionectomy - discharge; Hallux valgus correction - discharge
Murphy GA. Disorders of the hallux. In: Azar FM, Beaty JH, eds. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 14th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 82.
Myerson MS, Kadakia AR. Management of complications after correction of hallux valgus. In: Myerson MS, Kadakia AR, eds. Reconstructive Foot and Ankle Surgery: Management of Complications. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 4.
Review Date 12/12/2022
Updated by: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.