What Should You Expect from Ingrown Toenail Surgery?

In our previous blog, we discussed various methods of treating ingrown toenails. Most of these methods are quite simple and conservative, and can often be performed right at home.

Sometimes, however, the situation is more severe or stubborn, and ingrown toenail surgery becomes a real consideration.

We did discuss surgery a bit previously, but we’d like to expand upon the procedure further. What could you expect during it, and what is recovery like?

This blog will tackle those questions. Keep in mind, though, that sometimes the specifics of surgery can differ from patient to patient, depending on certain factors we must consider. The procedure might not exactly match what we describe here, but you should never hesitate to ask us questions about what to expect from any treatment we recommend. We will always be happy to discuss how everything will apply to you, specifically.

Why You Might Need Ingrown Toenail Surgery

Ingrown toenail surgery is not frequently recommended to patients; at least not when compared to simpler treatments for the condition.

That said, there are certain cases where surgery may be the preferred route:

  • Attempts to treat the condition via conservative and at-home methods simply haven’t worked.
  • You have a condition, such as diabetes or poor circulation, that makes ingrown toenails riskier to deal with.
  • Your ingrown toenails frequently come back, even if you can treat them effectively at home.

Surgery is not always an automatic need in any of the above cases, but it absolutely becomes a consideration.

Before an Ingrown Toenail Surgery

Most ingrown toenail surgeries are performed on an outpatient basis, in our office, and are relatively short procedures.

There is typically nothing you will have to do to prepare for the surgery. If there is, however, we will be sure to discuss it with you beforehand.

Most procedures are performed under local anesthesia, meaning that the area itself will be fully numbed and you will still be awake while we work. (You don’t have to look at it if you don’t want to, though.) We will properly clean and numb your toe before beginning.

We will check to ensure that your toe is fully numb before we begin. Please note that it is still normal to feel touch and pressure on your foot, but there should never be pain.

Types of Ingrown Toenail Surgeries

There are several types of ingrown toenail procedures we might perform, all depending upon your symptoms, circumstances, and any additional factors we may need to consider.

Different procedures include:

  • Slant Back. In cases where there is a mildly incurved nail, we may perform a small cut to the corner of the nail, leading just prior to where the nail digs into the skin. This is usually performed when the cause of the ingrown toenail is improper trimming.
  • Partial Nail Avulsion. Also referred to as a “wedge resection,” we remove only a portion of the toenail to keep it from further aggravating the skin.
  • Complete Nail Avulsion. If the situation calls for it, the toenail can be fully removed. There are some caveats with this procedure, however. It can take well over a year for the toenail to fully regrow, and risks are higher that the nail will grow back abnormally, looking misshapen.
  • Matrixectomy. This procedure follows the lines of a complete nail avulsion. However, we also treat the underlying nail bed to prevent the nail from growing back. This is often considered for patients whose ingrown toenails keep coming back no matter what they have tried to do.

We might also create an incision in the nail bed during some procedures in order to relieve swelling or accumulation of pus. This is usually only necessary if there is an infection.

Some procedures will involve placing a tight rubber ring around the base of the toe. This is to slow blood flow.

Recovering from an Ingrown Toenail Procedure

Most of the time, we will dress and bandage your toe following a surgery, regardless of which it is.

We may require you to rest for a short period of time in our office, just to ensure that everything is as it should be and that bleeding is not a problem. Afterward, you will be free to go home.

You will not be able to drive yourself home. Please arrange for someone to drive for you.

The anesthetic will usually last 2-3 hours. Some pain and discomfort will be expected for about a couple days, but can vary depending upon the patient. Standard, over-the-counter painkillers should be enough to provide comfort. However, if you are in more pain, or your pain has lasted for more than a few days following surgery, please let us know right away.

Please rest your foot and limit activities as much as possible for the first two days following your surgery. Keep off your affected foot and keep it elevated. After 24 hours, you can usually wash your toe by running warm, soapy water over it and patting (not rubbing!) it dry.

Normal, low-impact activities can usually be resumed after a few days. Running and other activities that place a deal of stress on the toes should be avoided, however. When you wear shoes, keep them open-toed or loose-fitting for about 2 weeks. This will help you avoid aggravating the toe as much as possible and give it more of a chance to heal.

If there are different or additional recommendations for your aftercare, we will be sure to fully discuss them with you.

Get the Help You Need for Ingrown Toenails

Surgery is not the only treatment for ingrown toenails. When it is recommended, though, it will often provide a lasting and better solution than other forms of treatment have or could give.

Don’t let severe or stubborn ingrown toenails keep you in day-to-day pain. Give us a call at (480) 917-2300 and schedule an appointment at any of our Phoenix area offices.

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