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What is a Matricectomy?

By Archana Khambekar
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Typically, matricectomy is a procedure where an underlying section of a fingernail or toenail, referred to as the nail matrix, is removed. The nail matrix may be taken out using a chemical or an electrosurgical method. The entire matrix or only a piece of it could be excised. A matricectomy might be recommended to treat an ingrown toenail, usually in cases where the problem recurs or the condition progresses to an advanced stage. Generally, the procedure can be performed in a doctor’s clinic, and the toe could completely heal in a few weeks.

An ingrown toenail may be caused by various factors such as wearing ill-fitting shoes, clipping one’s nails with the wrong technique, or from a toe injury. The problem often affects the nail on the big toe. The condition could cause considerable pain as the end of the nail pushes into the skin of the toe. One may experience discomfort when walking. Sometimes the nail can get infected; as a result, the area might appear inflamed and pus may be discharged.

Initially, a patient could try measures such as keeping the affected foot immersed in warm water containing salt or an antibacterial soap. Wearing open-toed footwear may help. Letting the nail grow longer and then cutting it using the right method could take care of the problem. In case of an infected toenail, treatment with antibiotics may alleviate the symptoms.

In some people however, the condition advances and the nail might grow deeper inside, exacerbating the symptoms, or the problem reappears frequently. In these instances a matricectomy might be suggested. The ingrown section of the nail and the matrix segment could be removed to treat the problem and prevent recurrence.

The nail matrix is essentially the formative part of the nail. Typically, when a partial matricectomy is performed, just the affected portion of the nail matrix is taken out. A new toenail that is slightly narrower can still grow from the remaining part of the matrix. Sometimes complete removal of the nail matrix may become necessary, in which case a new nail does not form. One could see a family physician or a podiatrist for this treatment.

The procedure can be performed with a chemical agent such as sodium hydroxide or phenol. Recovery may take about two weeks when the chemical method is used. Matricectomy can be carried out with a carbon dioxide laser. This procedure could be expensive, but generally involves less tissue damage and pain, allowing the patient to resume activity sooner, and usually keeps the problem from returning. An electrosurgical procedure may effectively treat the problem with a shorter healing time and lower the incidence of an ingrown toenail in the future.

A matricectomy is usually performed after injecting a local anesthetic. Customarily the patient is advised to rest the feet for twenty-four hours following the procedure and not to undertake physically demanding activity for a week. Antibiotics and painkillers are often prescribed for a certain period after the procedure. Generally, the doctor indicates how the patient can clean and take care of the area operated on.

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Discussion Comments
By anon964502 — On Aug 05, 2014

I was advised to have a matricectomy to remove an 'accessory' nail on my left foot. Basically, I have a sixth toenail that comes in next to the regular nail on my little toe. Though not as serious as ingrown toenails, growth of an 'accessory' nail can be painful and annoying because the little nail will snag in the sock and become irritated.

By anon261608 — On Apr 16, 2012

I had matricectomy done on both my big toes when I was 16 and I am so happy that I did!

I used to constantly get ingrown toenails, but I haven't had one since. I used to constantly have to worry about cutting my nails properly etc., but now I'm worry free. My nails look fine, and no more painful ingrown nails. The doctor said I had one of the widest nail beds he had ever seen.

By anon258154 — On Mar 30, 2012

I had a matricectomy done on my left big toenail in 1992 when I was only 16 and I wish I never did. It looks very disfigured. That year, I had three ingrown toenails and my podiatrist recommended the procedure to prevent another.

Thirteen years later however, I got another ingrown toenail so the procedure didn't even work! The podiatrist said this procedure would prevent this from happening and my parents told me I had to have it.

I feel as though I was completely taken advantage of by the podiatrist at such a young age. If you don't want to look disfigured, don't have this procedure!

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