Tired of seeing a ginger every time you look at your feet? It may sometimes feel like a big joke how there are hundreds of attributes you could inherit from your parents, grandparents, and even from your clan, yet you get the infamous foot deformity.
Or perhaps you are wondering why the side of your big toe hurts every time you try to wear shoes or just walk? Maybe you are suffering from the discomforts caused by a bunion, clinically known as a hallux valgus deformity, which is characterized by an inflamed swelling of the small sac filled with fluid on the first joint of your big toe.
This is usually taken out by undergoing a medical operation called a bunion surgery. If you are planning to get it, how much does bunion surgery cost then?
Average Cost of Bunion Surgery
Normally, medical clinics based in the United States of America have an average cost of bunion surgery, ranging from $3,500 to $5,000. However, there are some hospitals that charge up to $15,000 for the bunion removal cost, according to The Bunion Doctor.
Apparently, the cost can be influenced by several factors such as the type of bunion surgery the patient has to undergo, the surgeon doing the procedure, the location where the operation will take place and the use of anesthesia.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, through the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, the overall average price quoted was at $18,332 in 2014 which includes everything necessary in the performance of the surgery such as the surgeon’s fee, the facility, the anesthesia, among others. This only represents 12 out of the 141 clinics contacted who was able to give their estimated bundled price. They have yet to release updated report for this year.
What does this tell us? That the Bunion surgery cost is at the discretion of the hospital and/or the surgeon and they could impose a fee sky is the limit, especially to insured patients. Why? Because they simply can. Add to the fact that we actually could not find a single hospital offering the service with a price tag. So we relied upon what some of the former patients say.
Comments from 2013 to 2015 from readers of HowMuchDoesItCost.me reveal the following costs:
- Key West, Florida – estimated $53,000 for chevron osteotomy for insured patients but end up paying less than $20,000 in credit card or 64% off.
- Ohio – $10,000 plus
- Los Angeles – $4,500 through a private podiatrist
- Utah – $30,000
- Chicago – $40,000
- Oak Brook Surgical Center, Illinois – $45,560 on one foot, $29,705.15 for the other foot (insured)
What are Included
Generally, a bunion surgery involves an incision that starts on the side or on the topmost portion of the big toe joint and the realignment or removal of the protruding bone and soft tissue. Such procedure is conducted to eliminate the pain and bring back the normal alignment of tissues or ligaments to the joint.
Aside from incisors, the procedure also involves the use of plates, screws or small wires, ensuring that the bones stay in their places.
In summary, these are what you pay for the surgery:
- The surgery itself – this includes the surgeon’s professional fee in performing the procedure and the value of the procedure itself.
- Anesthesia – Considering that bunion surgery is an open procedure, there is a definitely a great need for anesthesia to conceal the pain that the patient will feel as the operation is going on. Usually, the whole process takes, at least, an hour to finish, depending on what bunion surgery type is being performed. The charge for this cost is paid to the anesthesiologist for administering the medicine before and after the surgery.
- The cost of facility – this includes the cost of the space where the operation is to be performed as well as the use of any medical machines and tools in the performance of the surgery. This can be a hospital’s operating room or a clinic’s outpatient surgery room.
Orthopedic consultation and imaging tests such as X-rays are typically included in the surgery package but there are those surgeons and facilities that do not include these so it is always better to know everything that is included in what you are going to pay.
It may be a case to case basis but sometimes, a sedative may also be used during the surgery for anxious patients.
Bunion surgeries are typically outpatient procedures but there are cases where a prolonged stay in the hospital is necessary for some reasons. If this is the case, expect to pay higher bill corresponding to the extended hospital stay.
Depending on the severity of the condition, some patients may be required more than one procedure so ask your surgeon of the possibility.
Postoperative care would typically include the use of walking casts and special shoes which can both be purchased at Amazon so prepare for their costs as well. It’s needed because you probably can’t use your old shoe post surgery, at least for a few weeks.
Shopping for Bunion Surgery
Deciding to go under the knife due to the debilitating symptoms of a bunion is not as easy as 1-2-3. You have to go through several processes of the ins and outs of the procedure and how to go about the impending expenses.
That being said, it is important to do the following tips when deciding to proceed with the surgery:
- Is it really necessary – majority of those deciding to towards surgery are due to the pain they could no longer take. Understand your own pain levels. It is easy to decide if you are insured. It only becomes a stressful choice if you are not. At the end of the day, it is your call.
- Do your homework – do not focus on one surgeon and facility alone. Research the costs in nearby areas. They would understand your need to get the most affordable service, especially with limited or no insurance coverage.
- Understand your insurance coverage by heart – let’s face it. Insurance companies would most likely evade paying medical obligations every chance they get. Most often, bunion surgery would be treated as an aesthetic or cosmetic procedure. And it is your duty to prove it is not.
- Considering a Medical Credit Line – when out of budget and no insurance but you cannot endure any more pain, consider getting a medical credit line. There are some companies willing to help you out by providing a Medical Credit line that works similar to a credit card but for medical purposes only.
The American Podiatric Medical Association or APMA offers a Podiatrist locator if you are considering or recommended to undergo a Bunion Surgery. Another option is the American Board of Podiatric Medicine or ABPM.
Factors Affecting Bunion Surgery Costs
The surgeon – one major factor that can influence the average cost of bunion surgery is the services of a professional surgeon who will tell you what kind of surgery you need and basically do the medical procedure. Sometimes, doctors who do the job in their private clinics relatively have lesser prices than in the hospitals. It can even go lower or higher, depending on the surgeon’s reputation and skills in the field.
Type of Bunion Surgery – there can be a lot of ways to eliminate a bunion through surgery. Each with different cost depending on the technology involved, the complexity of the procedure, and its effectiveness. And the type applicable to each condition varies depending on what the surgeon thinks is right for you.
Severity – the level of pain and deterioration of the patient’s toe condition would normally determine the type of treatment to be applied which naturally translates to its corresponding cost.
Facility – It is important to know where you want to have the operation to budget your money well.For instance, if you need to have an exostectomy, it can be performed in an orthopedic clinic that has the proper instruments for the surgery to be completed. Meanwhile, other bunion surgeries may require the assistance of the well-designed equipment and facility of a hospital where it provides a more advanced and innovative medical technology.Although medical procedures done in clinics are normally cheaper than the hospital’s outpatient surgery, there are times when private medical firms charge more especially when patients chose to have exclusive professional services.
Location – expect the cost of living and cost of doing business playing a big part in the cost of your surgery.
Insurance – The answer to the question, “how much does bunion surgery cost?” would mean very big expenses to shoulder. However, it pays a lot to know if this is covered by your insurance since you can save around 10 to 50 percent of the total expenditures you need to pay.
Mode of Payment – most hospitals and medical facilities offer 10% to 40% discount to uninsured patients paying in cash or credit cards.
Types of Bunion Surgery
WebMD says that there are more than 100 types of bunion surgeries available, but medical research has not pointed out which type would be the most effective procedure to address your bunion issue.
There are even cases when a patient has to undergo more than one operation, but it is not guaranteed that the surgery will completely relieve the pain. Below are some popular types of bunion surgery.
- Arthrodesis– is a type of bunion surgery that lets the surgeon remove the affected surface areas of the joint and insert the plates or screws, securely holding the joint until it has fully recovered. This medical operation is only applicable to patients who have serious arthritis, structural deformities or in cases when initial procedures fail to work properly.
- Bunionectomy or Exostectomy– refers to the removal of a portion of the metatarsal head, which is the bulging part of the foot. The typical bunion removal cost is around $3,900.
- Lapidus – this is the type of procedure that fuses the big toe joint.
- Osteotomy– involves surgical cuts in the bones and moves them back to its proper position.
- Repair of Ligaments and Tendons– basically shortens loose ligaments as well as loosens tight ligaments and tendons, realigning the big toe to its normal place.
- Resection Arthroplasty– removes the damaged portions of the joint. This procedure leaves a scar on the foot.
Alternative Treatments to Bunion Surgery
Having or experiencing a bunion does not necessarily entail surgery. In fact, surgery is only being recommended when you have exhausted all the nonsurgical treatment and the pain has not been relieved or if the bunion has already affected your quality of life like if you are already having difficulty walking or it has affected your mobility.
But if you experience none of these, alternative treatments might be considered. Sometimes, it is just as simple as that especially if the pain is tolerable or there is only mild discomfort and you have no problem with your feet’s irregular shape.
Some of the alternative treatments that your doctor might recommend include the following:
- Wearing comfortable shoes– Staying away from your favorite stilettos could just as well be the difference. Try wearing shoes that have more space for your toes for them to relax. The ProCare Evenup Shoe Balancer could be a perfect shoe to start with if getting into the operating table is out of the question for you.
- Using shoe insertsor arch supports – these feet supports help relieve pain caused by bunion by using them with your shoes. Amazon has a lot of feet protectors that you can buy off the shelf which can help relieve the pressure on your foot.
- Bunion Splints and Pads – these specifically designed splints and pads prevent pressure and further physical irritation that shoes may bring thereby lessening the pain which is the primary concern with people suffering from this. Bunion correctors, and toe spacers are abundant at Amazon.
- Custom foot orthotics – sometimes, off the shelf bunion splints and foot orthotics are not enough to alleviate the pain and would need a device tailor-made to the patient’s foot. This is where custom foot orthotics come Non-prescription custom foot orthotics typically cost around $100 to $200 while those which are with prescriptions range between $400 and $600.
- Physical therapy – if the pain is caused or triggered by tight muscles, then this might call for a few therapy sessions for these to loosen up. An initial appointment typically costs around $50 to $350 depending on the severity of the condition and location and the succeeding visits would range around 60 to $100 per hour of session.
- Taking pain relievers – over the counter pain medications and anti-inflammatory supplements are also available if you want it delivered straight to you if getting to a drugstore seems like a tedious endeavor for your toes.
- Cortisone shots – for immediate, temporary relief from pain and swelling, some may opt for an anti-inflammatory shot such as cortisone or corticosteroid. Each shot typically costs around $25 to $100, especially when needed in series. A one-time shot may cost higher like the case of a cortisone shot in the knee which ranges around $170 to $250 so conservative-wise, expect to pay around that vicinity.
- Aside from the costs, bunion surgeries may lessen the big toe joint’s flexibility that is a major issue for active individuals who rely so much on the capabilities of their big toe.
- After the surgery, you have to keep your foot away from objects that could cause serious discomforts. As much as possible, wear something that has more space to lessen the pain.
- You also need to remember that bunions may come back after you have undergone the surgery, especially when you still continue to wear high-heeled or narrow footwear.
- It takes six to eight weeks for your foot to get healed from a bunion surgery. But a full recovery will take about four to six months. Following your operation, the surgeon will put a boot or cast, which will protect the foot for the first two weeks. After the given period, you have to go back to your doctor to remove the cast. You will, then, be wearing a brace as a support for your foot as it continues to heal.