Toenail removal surgery, or surgical toenail removal, is a procedure often deemed necessary when dealing with persistent and painful nail conditions. This medical intervention is not a first-line treatment but is considered when other therapies have failed to provide relief. Conditions leading to such a decision include severe ingrown toenails, relentless fungal nail infections, and significant toenail trauma. Each of these conditions can cause considerable discomfort and, in some cases, lead to more serious complications if left untreated.

The Toenail Removal Procedure Explained

The toenail removal operation is a meticulously planned procedure designed to alleviate discomfort and address the underlying issue causing pain. Preparation involves a thorough examination of the affected toenail, followed by the administration of a local anaesthetic to numb the area. The process varies depending on the severity of the condition but generally involves either the partial or complete removal of the toenail. In cases where recurrent problems are anticipated, or the damage is extensive, permanent removal of the toenail may be considered. Each type of toenail removal—partial, complete, and permanent—aims to resolve pain while preventing future complications.

Nail removal surgery might be required as a treatment for a variety of conditions. It is a common and straightforward procedure, but it is natural to feel nervous if it is your first time experiencing this surgery. Whether you’re dealing with a severe nail infection, a traumatised nail bed, or a painful ingrown nail that just won’t quit, this comprehensive guide aims to provide you with the knowledge and insights you need to make informed decisions about your nail health.

Our nails may seem small, but they hold significant importance in our daily lives. They provide protection, enhance our dexterity, and add an aesthetic touch to our appearance. However, when nails become a source of discomfort, persistent pain, or severe infections, it may be time to consider nail removal surgery as a viable option for relief.

Nail removal surgery can be a transformative experience, relieving you from chronic nail issues, infections, or painful conditions. While every individual’s recovery may vary slightly, there are general expectations and guidelines that can help you navigate this crucial phase. From understanding the healing timeline to managing discomfort and promoting optimal recovery, we’ll cover it all in this comprehensive guide.

Why Might You Need Nail Removal Surgery?

The most common reason for toenail surgery is an ingrown toenail, a condition that affects countless individuals and causes considerable discomfort. When an ingrown toenail occurs, the edge of the nail grows into the surrounding skin, leading to redness, swelling, tenderness, and, in severe cases, infection. To alleviate the pain and reduce the risk of infection, nail removal surgery becomes a viable solution.

Ingrown Toenails

Ingrown toenails can arise due to various factors, including improper nail trimming, tight-fitting shoes, trauma to the toe, or genetic predisposition. When conservative treatments like warm soaks, antibiotics, or lifting the nail fail to provide long-lasting relief, the surgical option may be recommended, particularly if the ingrown nail is infected. During the procedure, the affected section of the nail or the entire nail may be removed, depending on the severity of the condition. This not only relieves the pain associated with the ingrown toenail but also helps eliminate the source of ongoing discomfort.

Thickened Nails

Apart from ingrown toenails, there are several other situations where nail removal surgery may be necessary. If you have a thickened toenail that causes pain from constant pressure against your footwear, surgical intervention can provide relief. Thickened nails can result from various causes, including trauma, repetitive pressure, or certain medical conditions. By removing the excessively thickened nail, the discomfort is alleviated, allowing you to walk and wear shoes with greater ease and comfort.


Another circumstance that may warrant nail removal surgery is a severe or recurrent fungal nail infection. Fungal infections of the toenails can be stubborn, causing thickening, discoloration, and crumbling of the nails. When conservative treatments such as antifungal medications or topical solutions fail to effectively manage the infection, nail removal surgery may be considered. By removing the infected nail, it eliminates the source of the fungal infection, allowing for more targeted treatment and promoting healthier nail regrowth.


Furthermore, toenails that have been significantly damaged due to trauma, such as sports injuries or accidents, may require surgical removal. Severe trauma can result in a partially detached or completely detached nail, causing pain, bleeding, and potential complications. In such cases, nail removal surgery may be necessary to address the injury, facilitate proper healing, and prevent further complications.

What Happens During Surgery?

Minor toenail surgery takes place under a local anaesthetic. This means that you stay conscious but the toenail area is numbed. Nail removal surgery is a quick and straightforward process, undertaken by a skilled podiatrist. You will have the opportunity to ask any questions and raise any concerns, and your podiatrist will always ensure that you are comfortable.

What To Expect After Nail Removal

After undergoing nail removal surgery, the post-operative care and healing process will vary depending on whether you had the entire nail or only a portion of it removed. At Northwich Foot Clinic, we provide a comprehensive nail removal package that includes two follow-up appointments to monitor the healing progress and provide necessary dressings.

During these follow-up appointments, your dedicated podiatrist will carefully assess the surgical site to ensure it is free from infection and healing as expected. They will inspect the wound, check for any signs of complications, and address any concerns or questions you may have. These appointments are crucial in ensuring proper healing and a successful recovery.

In addition to monitoring the healing process, your podiatrist will offer valuable tips and guidance to aid in your recovery and maintain a clean and infection-free environment. They will provide instructions on how to care for the surgical site, including proper wound dressing techniques, recommended cleaning routines, and precautions to take during the healing phase. Following their advice diligently will contribute to optimal healing and minimise the risk of complications.

Depending on whether the entire nail or only a part of it was removed, the potential for nail regrowth will be discussed with your podiatrist. If the entire nail was removed, the nail bed will gradually heal, and over time, new nail growth may occur. Your podiatrist will explain the regrowth process, including the expected timeline, appearance, and any specific care needed for the growing nail.

Immediate Aftercare and Managing Pain

Following the surgery, immediate aftercare is crucial for a smooth recovery. Patients are advised on how to care for the wound, such as keeping it clean and dry to prevent infection. Managing pain is also a critical component of the recovery process. Strategies include over-the-counter pain relief medications and elevation of the foot to reduce swelling. Adhering to the prescribed aftercare regimen is essential for minimising discomfort and facilitating healing.

Long-Term Recovery and Monitoring

The healing timeline can vary from person to person, but it’s important to monitor for signs of infection, such as increased redness, swelling, or pus. Patients should contact their healthcare provider if they notice any concerning symptoms. Follow-up appointments play a pivotal role in assessing the healing of the nail bed and discussing the potential for regrowth. These appointments offer an opportunity to ensure that recovery is progressing as expected and to address any lingering issues.

Make Sure You Stay In Touch

Throughout your post-operative period, it is crucial to maintain open communication with your podiatrist. If you experience any unexpected symptoms, complications, or concerns, do not hesitate to reach out to them for guidance and support. They are there to ensure your recovery progresses smoothly and that you achieve the best possible outcome.

Remember, each individual’s recovery may differ slightly, and it is essential to follow your podiatrist’s specific instructions based on your unique circumstances. By adhering to the recommended post-operative care, attending follow-up appointments, and staying vigilant about cleanliness and wound management, you will optimise the healing process and pave the way for a healthier and pain-free nail bed.

Toenail Reconstruction…

After your surgery (and the appropriate healing period), you may wish to consider toenail reconstruction. Our foot clinic offers LCN Wilde-Pedique, a toenail reconstruction system which can be used on thick layers of skin where toenails are missing or uneven nail surfaces. It is an elastic UV nail gel which conceals deformations and adapts to the movement of the toe. It can last for many weeks, and will restore confidence in your feet if you feel it lacking after surgery. 

Learn more about toenail reconstruction in our guide.

Looking After Your Feet

After your nail removal surgery, your podiatrist will give you tips to help you avoid needing surgery again in the future – for example, if the cause of your surgery was an ingrown toenail, you will be given advice about how to fend off future issues. It is important that you follow this advice as much as possible.

You should also keep a close eye on your feet. If you notice any issues or have any concerns – such as redness, pain or any other change – contact your podiatrist and they will be able to help.

At Northwich Foot Clinic, you can book your new podiatry appointment through our simple online booking system, or call us on 01606 45077 and we will be able to discuss your needs.

Categories: Podiatry