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Abscess Incision And Drainage


  • An abscess incision and drainage is a procedure to cut open the skin and drain pus from the abscess. An abscess is a collection of pus in a warm, red, tender, and swollen lesion (wound). It is most commonly caused by bacteria (germs). An abscess may occur anywhere in or on the body, including the skin. An abscess that needs incision and drainage is usually located deep in soft tissues, such as the thigh.
  • During an abscess incision and drainage, pus that is collected from the abscess may be sent to a lab for tests. A culture or examination of the pus may help your caregiver know what kind of bacteria is causing the infection. A culture will also help your caregiver know what medicines to give you to kill the bacteria.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.


Having an incision and drainage may be very painful and put you at risk of bleeding. Other areas close to the infected area may be affected and problems, such as a bone infection, may occur. You may have problems with blood supply to the area that may lead to tissue death. A scar may form on your skin as it heals. Sometimes, the infection may come back and the abscess may form again after being treated successfully. If left untreated, the infection may get worse and the abscess may grow larger. The infection may also spread to other parts or organs of the body. Talk with your caregiver if you are worried or have questions about your procedure, medicine, or care.


Before your procedure:

  • Informed consent: A consent form is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.
  • IV: An IV (intravenous) is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.
  • Pre-op care: You may be given medicine right before your procedure or surgery. This medicine may make you feel relaxed and sleepy. You are taken on a stretcher to the room where your procedure or surgery will be done, and then you are moved to a table or bed.
  • Monitoring: Careful monitoring may be needed depending on the anesthesia that will be used. You may have any of the following:
    • Heart monitor: This is also called an ECG or EKG. Sticky pads placed on your skin record your heart's electrical activity.
    • Pulse oximeter: A pulse oximeter is a device that measures the amount of oxygen in your blood. A cord with a clip or sticky strip is placed on your finger, ear, or toe. The other end of the cord is hooked to a machine. Never turn the pulse oximeter or alarm off. An alarm will sound if your oxygen level is low or cannot be read.
    • Vital signs: Caregivers will check your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and temperature. They will also ask about your pain. These vital signs give caregivers information about your current health.
  • Anesthesia: This is medicine to make you comfortable during the procedure. Your caregivers will decide which type of anesthesia medicine is best for you. You may have any of the following:
    • Local anesthesia: Medicine is used to numb the area of your body where the surgery or procedure will be done. It is usually injected into the skin. It also may be given as a gel or jelly applied to your gums for dental procedures or as a patch. For such areas as the genitals, medicine may be given as a cream on the skin or mucus membranes.
    • Regional anesthesia: Caregivers give this medicine to make you numb or to keep you from feeling pain during or after the procedure. It works by blocking a nerve that goes to a particular part of your body. Blocking a nerve keeps you from feeling anything in the area that nerve serves.
    • General anesthesia: Caregivers use this medicine to keep you asleep and free from pain during surgery. They give you anesthesia through your IV or as a gas. You may breathe in the gas through a mask or through a breathing tube placed down your throat. The tube may cause you to have a sore throat when you wake up.

During your procedure:

  • You will lie on a table on your side, back, or stomach, depending on where your abscess is. Caregivers will clean the skin around the abscess with soap and water. This soap may make your skin yellow, but it will be cleaned off later. Sheets are put over you to keep the area clean.
  • An incision (cut) is made over the abscess. An instrument wrapped in gauze, or a cotton swab, is used to clean the inside of the abscess. Caregivers then clean the cavity (hole) by washing it with a saline (salt water) solution. The abscess cavity is then packed with plain gauze or gauze with an iodine solution on it. If caregivers think that a foreign object may be present in the cavity, an x-ray may be taken. This is usually taken before the packing is placed in the cavity. Dry gauze is placed over the packing and taped down. The affected part may be placed in a splint.

After surgery:

You are taken to a room where your heart and breathing will be monitored. Do not get out of bed until your caregiver says it is okay. A bandage may cover wounds to help prevent infection. You may be able to go home after some time passes. If you had general anesthetic, an adult will need to drive you home. Your driver or someone else should stay with you for 24 hours. If you cannot go home, you will be taken to a hospital room.

  • Activity: You may need to walk around the same day of surgery, or the day after. Movement will help prevent blood clots. You may also be given exercises to do in bed. Do not get out of bed on your own until your caregiver says you can. Talk to caregivers before you get up the first time. They may need to help you stand up safely. When you are able to get up on your own, sit or lie down right away if you feel weak or dizzy. Then press the call light button to let caregivers know you need help.
  • Medicines: You may be given the following medicines:
    • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to help treat or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.
    • Medicines to treat pain, swelling, or fever: These medicines are safe for most people to use. However, they can cause serious problems when used by people with certain medical conditions. Tell caregivers if you have liver or kidney disease or a history of bleeding in your stomach.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.