What Is a Chevron Osteotomy?

A Chevron osteotomy is a common surgery to treat a bunion. A bunion (also known as hallux valgus) is a misalignment of the knuckle of the big toe. This misalignment causes the big toe to turn toward the smaller toes. It often creates a bump at the base of the big toe. Bunions are not always painful, but this deformity generally will get worse over time.

In a Chevron osteotomy, the foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon cuts the end of the long bone leading to the big toe (metatarsal) and rotates the end of the bone to straighten the big toe. This procedure may be performed in conjunction with soft tissue adjustments around the joint. This osteotomy is mostly performed for mild to moderate bunion deformity. This bunion correction surgery relieves pain by restoring normal straightness to the first toe joint.

Diagnosis

Bunion surgery may be needed if your bunion has a painful bump or skin irritation over the bump. You may have already tried non-surgical treatments such as splints, toe spacers, and wider shoes without pain relief. While bunion surgery may improve the cosmetic appearance of the foot by making the toes straighter, it should never be performed primarily for this reason.

Bunion surgery also should not be performed if the bunions are painless and do not cause problems. You should avoid surgery if you have an active infection, poor blood flow, or uncontrolled diabetes. If you have a severe deformity or extensive arthritis in the affected joint, a Chevron osteotomy may not be the correct procedure for you.

Treatment

A Chevron osteotomy is performed as an outpatient procedure, meaning patients generally go home a few hours after surgery. The first toe joint is straightened and the painful bump at the base of the big toe is filed down. This generally relieves the pain associated with the bunion and gives the foot a more normal appearance.

Specific Techniques

Your surgeon will make an incision on the inside of the foot over the joint of the big toe. After removing the inflamed fluid sac between the skin and bone, they will cut the end of the first metatarsal in a V-shape and move the head toward the second toe. In some cases, your surgeon may use removable wires or permanent screws to hold the end of the bone in its new place. They will then shave the bony prominence on the inside of your foot to remove the painful bump.

Your surgeon may perform an additional procedure to tighten the soft tissue on the inside of the toe and/or a procedure to loosen the soft tissue on the outside of the joint with the osteotomy. Foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeons often use an X-ray machine in the operating room to verify that the toe is correctly aligned.

X-ray image of a bunion before surgery

An X-ray image of a foot before surgery. The arrow shows a large bunion and crookedness of the big toe.

X-ray image after Chevron osteotomy surgery

An X-ray after Chevron osteotomy surgery. The surgeon has cut the bone in the big toe to correct the bunion and put in a screw to hold the bone in place.

Recovery

A dressing will be applied by your surgeon in the operating room, and you will be given a special shoe or boot. You will have to avoid putting weight on the foot or only put weight on the heel for a period of time determined by your surgeon. The dressings are applied to hold the big toe in the straight position, so you should not change the dressings unless told to by your surgeon. Also, the dressings cannot get wet.

You will elevate your foot to chest level for the first few weeks after surgery. You may need to use crutches or a walker the first few days after this surgery, which help to reduce complications as well as pain and swelling. Your doctor may ask you to do range-of-motion exercises (bending the knee, hip, or ankle) to maintain flexibility and to avoid stiffness.

Stitches usually are removed two weeks after surgery. Your surgeon will discuss whether physical therapy is needed.

Prolonged swelling and challenges with reasonable shoes are very common following foot surgery and may last several months. Compression stockings and physical therapy can be helpful in reducing the swelling.

Risks and Complications

All surgeries come with possible complications, including the risks associated with anesthesia, infection, damage to nerves and blood vessels, and bleeding or blood clots.

Potential complications with Chevron osteotomy include the bone failing to heal or disruption of the blood supply to the cut bone. Surgically corrected bunions have the potential for recurrence, even when the procedure was performed correctly. Patients can help prevent this by following their doctor's post-operative instructions.

Is it better to have my bunion fixed now, or should I wait?

When the pain of a bunion interferes with daily activities or shoe modification options don’t help you, it's time to discuss surgical options with your foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon. Together you can decide if surgery is best for you.

How long will I have to be off of my foot after surgery?

For a brief period of time after surgery, you should not put weight on the foot. In some cases, your surgeon may allow you to walk on your heel only.

What do I do if my bunion comes back?

No matter how well your surgery may have gone, there is always the chance that your bunion may come back. Often the new bunion is not painful and surgery is not needed. However, if your bunion comes back with pain, then you should talk to your foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon about revision surgery.

 

Original article by Ashish Shah, MD
Contributors/Reviewers: David Porter, MD

The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) offers information on this site as an educational service. The content of FootCareMD, including text, images, and graphics, is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnoses or treatments. If you need medical advice, use the "Find a Surgeon" search to locate a foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon in your area.