Just thought I should update this post. In late August 2012, I underwent a minimally invasive cheilectomy and had two scopes sent into the joint by a top orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeon in Australia.
I would highly recommend having the minimally invasive cheilectomy because he performed the surgery through three 1 cm incisions over the top of my foot rather than through a larger incision. The incisions healed really quickly. I was able to walk (i.e. hobble) out of the hospital in a heel weight-bearing surgical shoe and didn't need to use crutches. Not all surgeons know how to do the minimally invasive procedure or have the equipment for it so you might need to ask around. The first two weeks you should be pretty inactive and elevate your foot as much as humanly possibly. This helps reduce swelling and promote wound healing.
Unfortunately my joint is severely damaged and I'm still in a lot of pain post-cheilectomy so it looks like I'm heading for a fusion and am currently doing my research into this. But I'm really pleased I tried a cheilectomy first. I can no longer walk for exercise because I get lots of swelling and pain afterwards to the point where I limp and yelp if I put too much pressure on it. I'm hoping a fusion will allow me to walk for exercise again but I'm doing my research before thinking about any further surgery.
I have had 2 foot surgeries to date (a scarf and akin osteotomy bunion correction and a cheilectomy). My advice to anyone considering foot surgery of any form is:
1. Don't do it unless your problem is seriously affecting your quality of life. You need to ask yourself this question and answer it honestly. E.g. not being able to wear 6 inch Jimmy Choos is not a good enough reason
. The recovery is really long and your operated foot will swell for up to a year (some people I know have permanent swelling issues post bunion surgery). If you're not in pain and your activities are not limited by your problem then don't touch it until they are. Foot surgery is complicated and it's just not worth the risk.
2. Get a top sports medicine doctor to help guide you and direct you through the process of scans and surgeons. I have found them more proactive and better connected than GPs.
3. Get numerous opinions from surgeons. I saw about 10 surgeons before deciding to go ahead with the cheilectomy. Some people thought this was overkill but I genuinely got something out of every appointment whether that be a new idea or procedure, or corroboration with the advice of other surgeons. I didn't get any second opinion for my first surgery which was a bunion correction in Feb 2010 and I regret not doing this because I don't think I would have gone ahead with it had I sought other opinions. My bunion didn't cause me much discomfort at the time and my first MTP joint was damaged by the surgery which has now led to my current arthritis problem.
4. Don't lose hope - ever!! Keep jumping each hurdle as it comes and focus your energy on controlling the controllables!
Best of luck everyone and I hope you all get happy outcomes!