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Bunions, Hammertoes & Bears...Oh My!

Gerry Oginski
NY Medical Malpractice & Personal Injury Trial Lawyer
Many foot doctors, known as podiatrists, are more than happy to recommend surgical procedures to get rid of bunions, hammertoes and corns. Some podiatrists fail to inform the patient of significant risks associated with these seemingly "routine" and "simple" procedures. Patients get lulled into a false sense of simplicity and assume that it's a 'quick' procedure and they'll be up on their feet in days. That's not always the case where bone is removed from one's toes. In some cases the remaining ends of bone must be connected together with wires, usually known as 'k-wires'. If those wires are removed prematurely, the bones may become unstable and heal in an unnatural and awkward position, leaving you with a permanent deformity. In other cases, a doctor may take too much bone off, leaving you with an overly-shortened toe which sticks up in the air. Why are podiatric mishaps so significant? Here's a good analogy: When you build a house, you first need a good foundation. You can then build layer upon layer on top of that foundation without fear the house will collapse. When dealing with feet, if you damage your ability to walk or stand, your entire skeleton and muscles will now shift to accomodate your changed in gait (the way you walk) and your legs will begin to hurt as well as your back. Your 'foundation' will be affected, placing undue stress on other areas of your musculo-skeletal system. What's the alternative to having surgery to correct those bunions, hammertoes and corns? The first line of defense is called 'conservative treatment'. This includes modifying your shoe gear. It also includes using orthotics, also known as shoe inserts. Those shoe inserts can be bought from your pharmacy, over the counter, or can be custom made. In any event, they're certainly worthwhile as an attempt to reduce the pressure placed on your foot. In the event the orthotics do not work, podiatrists may sometimes try giving you anti-inflammatory medication or a course of steroid injections to reduce inflammation and associated pain. If after those 'conservative treatments' you still have problems, you will probably be asked to consider having surgery to correct your bunion, hammertoe or corn. Before you agree to have surgery, make sure to ask your foot doctor about the risks and benefits to the procedure. Ask how long you'll be off your feet (this is known as being non-weight bearing). How long will you be on crutches? Importantly, get references of other patients who have had this procedure with this doctor. Learn as much as you can about the doctor and the type of procedure that's being recommended. Only by being fully informed can you make an intelligent decision about what procedure is right for you. You may also want to get a second opinion, just to make sure this is the correct procedure for you. I hope these tips make you informed about your choices.