Are antibiotics necessary in the treatment of locally infected ingrown toenails?

Arch Fam Med. 2000 Sep-Oct;9(9):930-2. doi: 10.1001/archfami.9.9.930.


Context: A wide variety of generalists and specialists treat locally infected ingrown toenails, with perhaps the most common treatment regimen including resection of the nail border coupled with oral antibiotics.

Objective: To determine whether oral antibiotic therapy is beneficial as an adjunct to the phenol chemical matrixectomy in the treatment of infected ingrown toenails.

Design: We prospectively enrolled healthy patients with infected ingrown toenails. Each patient was randomly assigned to 1 of 3 groups that received either 1 week of antibiotics and a chemical matrixectomy simultaneously (group 1), antibiotics for 1 week and then a matrixectomy (group 2), or a matrixectomy alone (group 3).

Setting: Institutional ambulatory outpatient clinic.

Patients: Fifty-four healthy patients with infected ingrown toenails were studied. Patients with immunocompromised states, peripheral vascular disease, or cellulitis proximal to the hallux interphalangeal joint were excluded. Groups were age matched for comparison.

Results: Mean healing times for groups 1, 2, and 3 were 1.9, 2.3, and 2.0 weeks, respectively. Subjects receiving antibiotics and a simultaneous chemical matrixectomy (group 1) healed significantly sooner than those receiving a 1-week course of antibiotics followed by a matrixectomy (group 2). There was not a significant difference in healing time between those that received a chemical matrixectomy alone (group 3) and those that received a matrixectomy coupled with a course of oral antibiotics (group 1).

Conclusion: The use of oral antibiotics as an adjunctive therapy in treating ingrown toenails does not play a role in decreasing the healing time or postprocedure morbidity.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cautery / methods
  • Cephalexin / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Female
  • Hallux*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nails, Ingrown / complications
  • Nails, Ingrown / therapy*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Skin Diseases, Infectious / drug therapy*
  • Skin Diseases, Infectious / etiology
  • Wound Healing / drug effects


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Cephalexin