An abscess is an inflamed and infected pocket of pus in the skin. It is often called a
boil. Incision (cut) and drainage is a procedure to drain pus from an abscess.
Incision and Drainage
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Drainage of an abscess is the preferred treatment to clear an abscess. It is often used if the abscess is large, growing, painful, or not improving on its own.
Do not pop or cut an abscess yourself. This can spread infection and make it worse.
Possible complications may include:
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
- Diabetes or other conditions that weaken the immune system
- Your doctor will examine the abscess.
- An ultrasound or other imaging method may be used if the abscess is large or deep. Blood tests may also be used to find out how severe the infection is.
Your doctor may make sure your
A local anesthesia will be applied to your skin. This will make the area numb.
Most of the time, this procedure can be done in your doctor’s office. Large, deep abscesses, or abscesses in sensitive areas (such as near the anus) may require treatment in the hospital.
The area will be wiped with a special cleansing fluid. Anesthesia will be applied. A small incision will be made. A syringe or catheter may be used to drain the pus from the abscess or the pus may be squeezed out. Gauze may be used to soak up the fluid. A clean water mixture will be used to flush the area.
A tool may be used to explore inside the cut. It can also help break down the abscess. A sample of the bacteria may be taken with a cotton swab for testing. Sometimes, the doctor will decide to pack the wound with clean gauze. This will help make sure the abscess does not form again. If this happens, you will come back in a day or two to remove or replace the packing. Gauze and dressing tape will be used to cover the wound.
No, the procedure should not hurt. You may feel a slight pinch and burning when the local anesthetic is injected.
to help ensure a smooth recovery when you return home after the procedure:
- Take all medicine as directed. If you are taking an antibiotic, take it at the same time(s) each day. Finish the entire course.
- Change your bandages as directed. Wash the wound as directed by your doctor. Replace bandages with sterile bandages that your doctor gives you.
- Ask your doctor about when it is safe to shower, bathe, or soak in water.
- You may need to limit movement of the affected area to give it time to heal.
- Follow up with your doctor as directed.
The skin should heal completely in about 14 days.
After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
- Worsening pain
- Fever and chills
- Rash or hives
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
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http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated February 12, 2012. Accessed December 11, 2012.
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Prevention of surgical site infections: Prevention and Control of Healthcare Associated Infections in Massachusetts. AHRQ National Guideline Clearinghouse website. Available at:
http://www.guideline.gov/summary/summary.aspx?doc_id=12921&nbr=6635&ss=6&xl=999. Accessed December 11, 2012.
University at Buffalo (The State University of New York). Abscess incision and drainage. University at Buffalo (The State University of New York) website. Available at:
http://apps.med.buffalo.edu/procedures/abscess.asp?p=1. Accessed December 11, 2012.
6/3/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
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Am J Med.
Last reviewed December 2013 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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