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What Is It Like To Have Ingrown Toenail Surgery?

We know it’s often referred to as ingrown toenail surgery, but honestly – that makes it sound so serious and scary! The truth is that these are very simple and straightforward procedures. 


They are done in your regular appointment chair. They are done under local anaesthetic, so it’s painless. The total ‘treatment’ time is normally less than 20 minutes. You have no special precautions beforehand like with other surgeries – you don’t need to fast. In fact, we recommend you eat a good breakfast so that you have a good blood sugar level. In this way, it’s much more like a dental treatment than surgery. 


Today, we’re exposing the truth behind Partial Nail Avulsions (PNA) – and why they should not be feared, but looked forward to in terms of the relief you can expect to experience once your pain is gone, and you don’t have to keep putting up with one ingrown toenail after another.


Step one: We get you ready, you sit back and relax


When you first come in for your procedure, you have a really important job: Sit back and relax.


We are assuming that you’ve already signed the consent forms, asked every single question on your mind, and are a good fit to have the procedure (like that you don’t have severe circulatory problems that mean you don’t heal). If you haven’t, that’ll be the first step.


We’ll start getting you ready by cleaning and disinfecting your foot and toes. We follow strict hygiene and sterilisation protocols here, so take the time to help you have the best experience with us and your procedure. This is completely painless, and if you’re not interested in watching what is happening to your feet, you may wish to scroll through your newsfeed or catch up on emails. 


Step two: We numb your toe


You sit back and relax, we inject anaesthetic through a small, fine needle directly into your toe. You’ll feel a short-lived pinch, and then we’ll wait five or so minutes for the numbness to take full effect. We’ll feel around your toe, making sure that you definitely can’t feel any sensation. Once you give us the all-clear, we start the procedure!


Step three: Goodbye, small piece of ingrown toenail


Your procedure starts with us wrapping a ring around the toe (tourniquet) so that it doesn’t bleed when we do our thing. Next, we’ll cut your nail, in the corner where the nail has ingrown, and remove it from the corner using fancy sterilised equipment. 


We need to emphasise: This is not half your toenail, or even a quarter. It is a small sliver of nail, close to the nail edge. Your nail will not look disfigured or unusually small. Normally, it is unnoticeable until you point it out to a friend, in which case their response is something along the lines of “Oh, yeah, I can see that the edge of that nail is very straight”. We keep your cosmetic appearance in mind, so only remove as much nail as we need to to get the job done well.


Step four: Making it permanent


If you’ve opted for a permanent ingrown toenail treatment, this is the step where we’ll apply a chemical to the base of the nail to destroy the nail growing cells. Without nail growing cells in that nail edge, the goal is that the nail won’t grow back.


We’ll flush the chemical out after 90 seconds, and then we’re almost done!


Step five: We wrap your toe up


It’s time to dress your toe. We’ll apply an antiseptic ointment or two to the area, dress it well using sterile dressings, and run you through the do’s and don’ts until we see you in a few days’ time. 


Step six: Goodie bag!


We give you a goodie bag to take home, filled with dressing materials and written instructions (because people forget easily, and we understand). Alternatively, we may give you your goodie bag at your next appointment.


Step seven: Your 2-3 day check


Two or three days after the procedure, you come in and we check how your toe is looking and that everything is progressing as we’d expect. We’ll redress your toe, and teach you the right way to do it using the materials in your goodie bag.


That’s it.


You’ll be redressing your toe for the next week, following instructions, and you may see us again one more time, but that truly is it. Nothing scary, or nerve-wracking. Yep, the anaesthetic can be unpleasant if you dislike needles, but it’s so short-lived that it’s over before you know it.


If you’ve been battling recurring ingrown toenails and want a permanent solution – book in with our experienced podiatry team by clicking here or calling us on (09) 523 2333


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About the author

Hanan Kane