One hundred and seventy procedures were performed on one hundred and forty patients with ingrowing toenails. Each patient was randomly allocated to one of three treatment groups. There were 55 wedge resections (WR), 53 segmental phenolizations (SP) and 62 wedge resection/segmental phenolization combination treatments (WR/SP). All patients were followed up for 6 months. The duration and intensity of postoperative pain was assessed and the recurrence rate monitored. Postoperative pain was less in the WR/SP group (9.4 +/- 13.5 h) than in the WR group (30.0 +/- 37.6 h, P less than 0.001). There were seven recurrences in the WR group, four in the SP group, and none in the WR/SP group. The results in the WR/SP group were statistically significant when compared with the WR group (P less than 0.01) and with the SP group (P less than 0.05). We conclude that the WR/SP combination procedure is a superior form of treatment for ingrowing toenails.