What to Expect from Ingrown Toenail Surgery (and When You Might Need It)

by | Mar 30, 2020 | Surgery, Skin and Nail Problems

Nobody ever wants to have surgery. That’s an obvious fact. So the thought of surgery for a problem that seems like it should be a minor one, like an ingrown toenail, can understandably cause some hesitation.

However, an ingrown toenail is not always a “minor” condition. There are circumstances when a surgical procedure to address an ingrown toenail is deemed the best or only option moving forward. And when it comes to the vast majority of times we perform ingrown toenail surgery, the lasting relief our patients receive make the relatively simple procedure more than worth it!

We will be going into more detail here regarding what surgery for an ingrown toenail entails, as well as when such procedures may likely be considered for a patient.

If, after reading this, you still have questions or are not sure whether your case is “serious” enough to receive professional attention, we highly encourage you to contact us! There is no such thing as an ingrown toenail that is “too minor” for us to treat. In fact, we’re happy to address any ingrown toenail, because that helps us ensure it doesn’t become more painful or complicated in the near future.

When Might Ingrown Toenail Surgery Be Considered?

Although an ingrown toenail procedure is relatively minor compared to other forms of surgery, it is still not something we perform without proper consideration. If and when conservative treatment options provide the results we need, those options will nearly always be utilized first. 

So when does surgery for an ingrown toenail become a tangible option? Potential situations include:

  • When conservative treatments just have not had the intended results. Have at-home treatments such as foot soaks and wearing more open footwear not been effective? Does your ingrown toenail still persist without improvement after several days?
  • Your ingrown toenail keeps coming back. If you tend to get ingrown toenails over and over again, there is probably a more significant underlying cause that needs to be addressed. We will likely start by suggesting measures such as changing footwear or changing the way you trim your toenails. But if these measures don’t work, odds are that your condition is caused by unavoidable hereditary factors that might only be addressable through surgery.
  • You have a condition such as diabetes or poor circulation that makes addressing ingrown toenails riskier or more complicated. Certain conditions can make any sort of injury or aggravation to the feet more likely to result in infection or other complications. An ingrown toenail procedure can greatly reduce or eliminate these risks.

We will also carefully consider your general health, health history, lifestyle, and other factors before recommending a treatment plan for your ingrown toenail. We would discuss our recommendations and all options with you before any decision is made to move forward.

What Does Ingrown Toenail Surgery Consist Of?

The main goal of most surgical procedures is to remove part or all of the toenail, eliminating the ingrown portion. Additional measures might be taken to prevent the ingrown toenail from returning. This is an outpatient procedure and can be performed right in our office.

In most procedures, we begin by injecting a local anesthetic into the toe, completely numbing it. The initial injection may be painful in some cases, but we will do all we can to make it as comfortable as possible for you. If you have anxiety regarding the procedure, please do not hesitate to tell us. We might be able to use alternative methods of anesthesia to help you remain more relaxed.

We may also place a strong elastic band around the base of the toe to slow blood flow to the area, and/or place a small wedge beneath the nail to lift and expose the ingrown portion.

There are several similar types of procedures we may perform. These include:

  • Partial Nail Evulsion. We remove only a portion of the nail to prevent it from further aggravating the skin. This is also known as a “wedge resection.”
  • Complete Nail Plate Evulsion. Instead of removing only part of the toenail, we remove the entire nail. The toenail may take up to a year-and-a-half to fully grow back, and there are increased odds of the nail growing back misshapen. We only tend to remove a toenail this way in specific cases.
  • In addition to removing part or all of the nail, we treat the underlying nail bed with a special chemical to prevent new nail tissue from ever growing back. This method can be employed in cases when ingrown toenails keep recurring despite other efforts to prevent them from doing so.

There may be variations on these procedures, according to the specific needs of your situation. We will happily discuss the steps of your personal procedure with you.

What to Expect After Ingrown Toenail Surgery

Depending on the type of procedure performed, we will likely recommend you rest your foot as much as possible for one or two days after surgery. This includes limiting your movement of the foot, and keeping it elevated whenever you are sitting or lying down.

We might prescribe pain medication or antibiotics, depending on the case. Please precisely follow all dosage instructions.

You will likely be able to resume normal, low-intensity activities after a few days, but running and other high-impact activities should be avoided for the next couple weeks. (We can help you find some alternative exercises to keep you moving and active as much as possible during this time!)

You should also wear open-toed shoes, or shoes with large toe boxes, to help prevent any excess pressure or tightness against your toe.

Once the first day or two passes, you will likely be able to clean your foot by running warm , soapy water over it and patting it dry. Do not try to scrub your toe (and trust us, you will not want to at this point).

Remember that these are all general guidelines. We might provide you different or more specific instructions when you see us.

Get Help for Ingrown Toenails and More

We mean it when we say that no ingrown toenail is “too small” for us to see and treat. In fact, no foot or ankle concern is! Our practice is committed to not only treating existing problems, but keeping small problems from becoming big ones as well. And if we can provide you with some much-needed peace of mind, that’s a huge bonus.

We have offices in Miami Shores and North Miami Beach. Call us at (305) 514-0404 to schedule an appointment, or fill out our online contact form if you prefer to reach us electronically instead.