Toenail Surgery Complications

Updated April 17, 2017

Toenail surgery is done for various reasons including ingrown toenails and fungus problems. Sometimes the entire nail is removed, and other times, only a partial nail is removed. In the majority of cases, the surgery is completed without any complications. However, complications can occur and there are risks to having the procedure done.


People who have toenail surgery are at a risk of infection depending on how much of the nail was removed. There can also be instances where the toenail was infected before the surgery was done. In these cases, if physicians feel that there is an increased risk, they will prescribe antibiotic medication for the person to take.

Lacerated Nail Bed

In some instances, the nail bed can be lacerated when the physician is removing the nail. In addition to this being a painful condition, a laceration can put the person at an increased risk of infection. According to the American Family Physician website, if this results in deep lacerations it may require stitches. In some situations, the laceration can bleed and may need to be cauterised.

Distal Toe Ischemia

Frequently a tourniquet is used to keep the toe from bleeding during the surgery. If the tourniquet is too tight, it can result in distal toe ischemia. This may cause the toe to heal poorly and ulcerate. In some situations, the toe will become dark and necrosis will set in. This can be very serious and can even result in additional loss of tissue. However, removing the tourniquet immediately after the procedure is done, can prevent this from happening.

Damaged Tissue

Cauterisation is a burning of the tissue and is normally done to remove tissue or control bleeding. However, damage to the toenail bed can occur if the nail bed is over cauterised. Over cauterisation will result in an additional loss of tissue on the nail bed and could cause nerve damage if too deep. Your physician should take care in using this method of treatment.


Sometimes the problem that initiated the removal of the toenail, such as an ingrown toenail, will grow back. According to the website for Premier Podiatry, in some instances this regrowth can result in a small cyst. As a result, this too will have to be removed, and can cause additional discomfort and lengthen the healing process.

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About the Author

Kristie Jernigan is a health writer with over 17 years of experience as a medical social worker. She has worked mainly with the elderly population and with children. She holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology and early childhood from East Tennessee State University and a Master of Science in health care administration and gerontology from the University of Phoenix.