Summary Background Conventional therapy of onychomycosis is prolonged and often frustrating, which is why combination therapy involving topical, oral and surgical measures has been advocated as the treatment of choice. There are no controlled studies evaluating the efficacy of nail avulsion followed by topical antifungal therapy.
Objectives To evaluate the efficacy of combined surgical and topical therapy for onychomycosis.
Methods Forty patients with single nail onychomycosis [28 with distal and lateral subungual onychomycosis, seven with total dystrophic onychomycosis (TDO) and five with proximal subungual onychomycosis] were randomly assigned to four treatment groups. Each group received avulsion of the involved nail, followed by ketoconazole 2% cream without (group I) or with occlusion (group II), or oxiconazole 1% cream without (group III) or with occlusion (group IV). Topical therapies were applied twice daily. The patients were reviewed monthly and treatment was continued until the regrowth of completely normal nail (mycologically negative). In cured cases, further monthly review was carried out for at least 6 months, without any form of therapy. At each visit direct microscopic examination was repeated.
Results There was a high dropout rate, with seven patients (group I), six patients (group II), six patients (group III) and eight patients (group IV) completing the treatment protocol. Out of these, mycological cure was achieved in three (43%) patients in group I, four (67%) in group II, two (33%) in group III and six (75%) in group IV. All the cases of TDO failed to respond to this therapy. Overall, 15 of 27 (56%) patients were cured with this approach. On further follow up, recurrence of onychomycosis was recorded in two patients in group I. No side-effects or long-term complications of the nail avulsion were encountered. Important limitations encountered in the present study included a small sample size, a high dropout rate (32%) and poor patient compliance.
Conclusions Contrary to earlier reports, surgical nail avulsion with topical antifungal agents was not found to be a very encouraging modality for the treatment of onychomycosis. Both oxiconazole and ketoconazole delivered comparable results. Occlusion improved the treatment outcome, although the difference was not statistically significant. As a subtype, TDO showed poorest response. Surgical nail avulsion followed by topical antifungal therapy cannot be generally recommended for the treatment of onychomycosis.