Skip to Main Content


  • • Incision and drainage are indicated when a large, localized, and tender collection of pus occurs in the subcutaneous tissues beneath the skin surface.

    • When the diagnosis is unclear, needle aspiration may be diagnostic. This is particularly helpful for deeper infections.




  • • Abscesses located in the deep tissues, the hand, or the face.

    • Lengthy or painful procedures in young children. Since these may require conscious sedation, they should be performed only if resources for conscious sedation are available.

    • Abscesses requiring operative drainage and debridement. These procedures should be performed in the operating area.

    • Patients with underlying conditions that may complicate the healing process or require close outpatient follow-up (eg, immunocompromised state or diabetes). Referral to specialty clinics may be appropriate for such patients.


  • • Mask.

    • Sterile gloves.

    • Povidone-iodine solution.

    • Sterile gauze.

    • Sterile dressing and drapes.

    • Eutectic mixture of local anesthetics (EMLA/ELAMAX) or 1% lidocaine with epinephrine, or both.

    • 25- or 27-gauge needle for lidocaine administration.

    • #11 scalpel.

    • Curved hemostats.

    • Sterile packing material (iodoform gauze).


  • • Bleeding.

    • Pain.

    • Recurrence of the abscess due to inadequate drainage.


  • • Be careful not to mistake an abscess for a cellulitis (a diffuse, suppurative inflammation). Needle aspiration can help distinguish them.

    • Make the abscess incision large enough to permit adequate drainage of pus.

    • For very small abscesses, the use of topical local anesthetic ointment may be sufficient for drainage.

    • Take a medical history. Children with cardiac valve disease should receive antibiotic prophylaxis to prevent endocarditis.


  • • Clean the area with povidone-iodine.

    • Use lidocaine regionally for local anesthesia.


  • • Place the patient in supine position for greatest comfort.


  • • The anatomy varies depending on the location of the abscess.


  • • Apply topical local anesthetic (EMLA/ELAMAX) over the abscess 30 minutes before the procedure. This provides cutaneous anesthesia and often helps begin the drainage process.

    • Put on mask, eye shield, and sterile gloves.

    • Use lidocaine 1% with epinephrine for local anesthesia (Figure 41–1). Infiltrate the dermis overlying the abscess in a linear distribution.


  • • Clean the area with povidone-iodine and set up a sterile field.

    • If you are uncertain about the definitive diagnosis of the abscess, use an 18-gauge needle to aspirate the affected area.

    • Using the #11 scalpel, make a linear incision through the skin over the full length of the abscess cavity. Avoid proximate neurovascular structures.

    • Allow the pus to drain from the cavity.

    • Use a sterile gloved finger or hemostats to explore the cavity and break up any loculations of pus.

    • Place sterile packing material into the wound. Use a hemostat to aid in the placement of the packing material (see Figure 41–1).

    • Leave an end of the packing material through the incision site so that ...

Pop-up div Successfully Displayed

This div only appears when the trigger link is hovered over. Otherwise it is hidden from view.