PUBLIC HEALTH
June 9, 2010

Doctors Develop New Way to Treat Bunions

A new treatment for bunions is less painful and recovery is quicker.

A new technique to treat bunions may cut recovery time by more than half and decrease the pain associated with it considerably.

Bunions can occur when people wear shoes that pinch their toes together, which weakens the ligaments, however it is believed that some people are genetically predisposed to them. In the old method for treating them, known as osteotomy bunionectomy, the joint of the toe is cut and realigned, which usually leads to a two-month recovery period, not to mention a certain amount of discomfort. But breaking a bone in the foot to correct a deformity seemed unnecessary to George Holmes of the Rush University Medical School in Chicago

'This new procedure decreases the degree of postoperative pain and greatly reduces the potential of postoperative complications... It also decreases the recovery time, causes less scarring, and patients are able to go home the same day.'

The technique that Holmes designed, called the “Mini TightRope” procedure, sidesteps the problems in the old method by using other means to correct the “angular deformity.” During the technique, miniscule holes are drilled in the bones of the first and second toes (metatarsals). After this, two hair-fine wires are passed through the holes and secured to each of the bones. This creates a kind of pulley system, by which the misaligned bones can be realigned by gently tightening the tiny wires.

"This new procedure decreases the degree of postoperative pain and greatly reduces the potential of postoperative complications," said Holmes in a press release from the university. "It also decreases the recovery time, causes less scarring, and patients are able to go home the same day.”

According to the news release, patients typically have a two or three week recovery period during which they must wear a postoperative shoe. After this period, any pain associated with the procedure has usually dissipated, and the stitches are removed.

About 30% of U.S. women suffer from bunions, most likely due to wearing shoes that pinch the toes. Of the 200,000 bunion surgeries that are executed every year in the U.S., somewhere between 10 and 30% of patients have considerable complications, making the new method even more promising. Longer-term follow-ups on patients who have undergone will still need to be reported.

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