Ingrowing Toenail Surgery

This page will provide you with information about surgery for ingrowing toenails. For further details, please speak to your consultant.

What is an ingrowing toenail?

An ingrowing toenail is when a toenail develops so that it begins to grow into the skin around it (see Figure 1) as opposed to outwardly. This can lead to the skin around a toenail becoming damaged, leading to pain and possible infections. This issue occurs most commonly in the big toe.

Figure 1

Ingrown toenail

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The most common cause for an ingrowing toenail is when toenails are not cut properly, causing the nail to grow into the skin surrounding the nail. It can often run in families, as toenails that don’t grow straight are also a cause. Similarly, wearing shoes that are too tight around the foot can also cause nails to grow incorrectly.

What are the benefits of ingrowing toenail surgery?

The surgery will put a stop to pain and infection in the affected toe.

What are the alternatives to surgery?

There are a few other options for patients to try instead of opting for surgery, however these are mostly preventative options. These include:

  • Cutting toenails in a straight line across, without leaving any sharp edges.
  • Wearing shoes that are the right fit and do not squash the toes.
  • Requesting a GP or podiatrist push the skin away from the toenail, or remove the edge of the toenail that is digging in.

What will happen during the operation?

The operation is commonly performed under local anaesthetic and can take around 10 minutes. There are various forms of ingrowing toenail surgery:

  • Nail avulsion – the removal of the whole nail
  • Wedge excision – the removal of part of the nail
  • Nail-bed ablation – the removal of the whole nail, plus a chemical or electric current directed at the area of tissue responsible for nail growth
  • Zadek’s procedure – the removal of the whole nail, plus cutting away the area of tissue responsible for nail growth

Risks and complications

Any risks or complications will be discussed in advance of your treatment with your expert consultant.


Most patients are able to return home a short time after surgery. It is advised that patients spend the first few days of recovery with their leg raised to help reduce swelling.

Most activity can be resumed shortly after the procedure, however it is advised that no sport be played or strenuous activity undertaken for a fortnight.

The dressing should be kept dry and toenails always cut in a straight line. Comfortable shoes that fit the shape of the foot should also be worn at all times, as an ingrowing toenail can re-occur.


The partial or whole removal of an ingrowing toenail should reduce pain and the risk of infection.


EIDO Healthcare Limited – The operation and treatment information on this page is produced using information from EIDO Healthcare Ltd and is licensed by Aspen Healthcare.

The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.