The New York Times, September 2, 2014, Science Times, page D4, reports on bunions and poses the question “Is surgery the only treatment for bunions?” The brief article reminds us that bunions are caused by a number of factors including genetic (which makes the feet more susceptible to bunion formation due to their formation and bone structure). Things which make bunions worse are wearing the wrong shoes, extra weight, or prolonged periods of standing and walking. Heels are particularly bad because the weight is shifted forward and change the biomechanics of the foot. (But note that after certain surgery some foot doctors recommend going into a moderate heel to help bend the big toe joint, known as the first metatarso-phalangeal joint.)
Nonsurgical treatment will not eliminate the bunion deformity but can help make you feel more comfortable and able to tolerate the bunion without having to go for surgery. Proper shoes and padding can help too. If all nonsurgical treatment fails, and the pain is severe enough, then surgery should be considered.
From our point of view, and not mentioned in this Times article, the key to deciding to have surgery or not is how severe is your pain and is it enough to justify surgery, the recovery period, the risks of it failing or the risk of encountering complications. Of course, your podiatrist’s surgical errors (misdiagnosis; wrong surgical procedure chosen; intra-operative mistakes and miscalculations) are not risks of the procedure which you are expected to accept when you say yes to surgery. The risks which you accept once you are informed of them, and say yes to the surgery, are those poor outcomes which are not preventable or avoidable and which the podiatrist has taken all reasons steps to minimize their occurrence. In other words, you are never expected to accept the risk of malpractice.
Many ask if their signing the consent form listing risks of the surgery prevents them from suing for malpractice. The answer is an emphatic NO – you can still sue for malpractice if your attorney feels your case has merit.