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Incision and Drainage


What you need to know about incision and drainage:

Incision and drainage is a procedure to drain a pocket of fluid, such as pus or blood.

How to prepare for incision and drainage:

  • Arrange to have someone drive you home after the procedure.
  • Tell your healthcare provider about all medicines you currently take. He or she will tell you if you need to stop taking any medicine before the procedure, and when to stop.
  • Tell your provider about all your allergies. Tell him or her if you had an allergic reaction to local anesthesia or antibiotics.
  • You may need blood tests, an ultrasound, a CT scan, or an MRI. Tell your provider if you had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious damage. Tell your provider if you have any metal in or on your body.
  • Your provider will tell you if you need to stop eating or drinking before the procedure, and when to stop.

What will happen during incision and drainage:

Your healthcare provider will give you medicine to numb the area so you do not feel pain during the procedure. He or she will make an incision in your skin above the pocket of fluid. Your healthcare provider will drain the fluid and clean out the area with gauze or a cotton swab. Your wound may be packed loosely with gauze to keep it open so it can continue to drain as it heals. A bandage will be placed over your wound to absorb the drainage.

What to expect after incision and drainage:

Healthcare providers will monitor you closely for any problems. Do not get out of bed until your healthcare provider says it is okay. You may be allowed to go home when a healthcare provider sees that you are okay.

Risks of incision and drainage:

You may have pain or bleeding at the site of the incision. You may have a scar after your wound heals. Fluid may build up again and create a pocket in the same area. You may get an infection at the site of your wound or throughout your body.

Call your doctor if:

  • You have red streaks or extreme pain near your wound.
  • Blood soaks through your bandage.
  • You have pain in your back, stomach, muscles, or joints.
  • You have fever or chills.
  • You feel more tired than usual.
  • Fluid builds up again and creates a pocket in the same area.
  • Your wound becomes red, swollen, and painful.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


You may need any of the following:

  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's healthcare provider.
  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Wound care:

Keep your wound clean and dry as directed by your healthcare provider:

  • Wash your hands before and after you touch or clean your wound.
  • Flush or soak your wound as directed.
  • Check your wound for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, and pain.
  • Change the packing or bandages as directed. Ask for more information about what type of bandages to use.

Elevate your wound:

If your wound is on your arm or leg, keep it raised above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your arm or leg on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably.

Wear a splint as directed:

You may need to wear a splint if your wound is on your hand, arm, or leg. A splint limits movement and helps your wound heal. Do not remove the splint until your healthcare provider says it is okay.

Follow up with your doctor in 1 to 3 days, or as directed:

You may need to return to have your incision cleaned and your bandages changed. Bring a list of your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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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.