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Procedures

Incision and Drainage of a Skin Abscess

General Information

An abscess can occur anywhere on the body. An abscess is a pus-filled fluid sac that grows in a cavity on your skin. They're usually the result of some form of infection, and can be visually observed as a bump or lump on the skin. The area can be extremely tender and painful, and warm to the touch. The most common locations for a skin abscess are the groin, the armpit and in other body creases where sweat glands may clog, leading to inflammation of hair follicles that eventually create a boil or abscess.

Reasons for Incision and Drainage of a Skin Abscess

  • Abscess grows larger
  • As abscess grows larger, it becomes more painful
  • Abscess is located near genitalia
  • Remove the abscess and the source of infection

Diagnosis

Your doctor will be able to observe the location and size of the abscess. He'll check the lymph nodes closest to the abscess and may draw blood for blood cultures to determine degree of infection or even a wound culture, but will also want to ask you additional questions, such as:

  • How long the abscess has been forming
  • If you're allergic to anything
  • If you're currently taking any prescription medications
  • If you have a higher than normal temperature

Surgery

Incision and drainage of the abscess may not be possible if the pus inside the abscess or boil has hardened. Before that, he may be able to lance the abscess to relieve buildup up pressure caused by pus. However, he may also opt to incise the abscess and drain the sac using the following procedure. The doctor will:

  • Clean the area around the abscess
  • Give you a local injection or topical application of an anesthetic
  • Use a scalpel to slice open the abscess
  • Drain the pus and other fluids or debris from the abscess
  • Pack the open wound with gauze
  • Allow the wound to remain open for a day or two to allow any further pus or fluids to drain
  • Place a sterile covering over the wound to complete the healing process

What to Expect

After the wound has been bandaged, you'll be given instructions how to care for the drained abscess site. You should feel better right away, but you may be given pain medication if the abscess was large or in a sensitive area of your body. Under certain circumstances, you may also be given an antibiotic.