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Superficial Abscess Drainage

Last updated Oct. 16, 2018

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

Blausen.com staff. "Blausen gallery 2014

An abscess is a collection of pus (observed with a swelling), occurring on any part of the body. A Superficial Abscess Drainage involves the opening and draining of an abscess.

Background Information:

What are the other Names for the Procedure?

  • Abscess Drainage
  • Abscess Drainage in a Superficial Location
  • Incision and Drainage of the Abscess

What is Superficial Abscess Drainage surgical procedure?

A Superficial Abscess Drainage involves the opening and draining of an abscess. An abscess is a collection of pus (observed with a swelling), occurring on any part of the body.

What part of the Body does the Procedure involve?

  • Abscesses can form anywhere on the body; the Superficial Abscess Drainage procedure is confined to the affected area
  • Some of the common areas where an abscess occurs are the armpits, back, female breast, groin, genitals, hands, feet, face, and so on

Why is the Superficial Abscess Drainage surgical procedure Performed?

A Superficial Abscess Drainage procedure is performed to treat infections and ensure complete drainage.

What are some Alternative Choices for the Procedure?

The use of antibiotics is an alternative; but, if an abscess does not respond to medications, then abscess drainage is considered the gold standard technique.

What are the Recent Advances in the Procedure?

A Superficial Abscess Drainage is a gold standard treatment procedure. No recent advances are currently available to replace this age-old procedure.

What is the Cost of performing the Superficial Abscess Drainage surgical procedure?

The cost of Superficial Abscess Drainage procedure depends on a variety of factors, such as the type of your health insurance, annual deductibles, co-pay requirements, out-of-network and in-network of your healthcare providers and healthcare facilities.

In many cases, an estimate may be provided before the procedure. The final amount depends upon the findings during the surgery/procedure and post-operative care that is necessary.

When do you need a Second Opinion, prior to the Procedure?

  • It is normal for a patient to feel uncomfortable and confused by the information regarding Abscess Drainage and on what needs to be done
  • If the patient needs further reassurance or a second opinion, a physician will almost always assist in recommending another physician, if required
  • They can also choose to approach another physician independently. Besides, if the procedure has many alternatives, the patient may take a second opinion to understand and choose the best one

What are some Helpful Resources?


Prior to Superficial Abscess Drainage surgical procedure:

How is the Superficial Abscess Drainage surgical procedure Performed?

  • An incision is made over the abscess and a sterile instrument inserted in the incision, in order to break open small pockets of pus
  • Next, the pus is allowed to drain and the cavity is irrigated before packing it with a gauze dressing
  • In some cases, a drain is inserted in the incision and left there for a few days
  • In any case, the cavity is left to heal from inside out. The skin incision is left open and allowed to heal simultaneously

Where is the Procedure Performed?

A Superficial Abscess Drainage is a procedure that can be performed in a physician’s office or an out-patient surgery center facility or a hospital depending upon the location and the severity of the illness.

Who Performs the Procedure?

 The procedure can be performed by a family physician or a general surgeon.

How long will the Procedure take?

A Superficial Abscess Drainage procedure may take anywhere between 20 minutes to an hour.

What do you need to tell your Physician before the Procedure?

It is very important to provide the following information to your healthcare provider. This enables your healthcare provider in assessing the risks for the surgical procedure and helps avoid unnecessary complications.

  • Provide a complete list of medications you are currently, taking to your physician. This information is useful for a variety of reasons. For example, it can help your healthcare provider prevent complications due to a drug interaction
  • If you are allergic to any specific medication or food items
  • If you are taking blood thinners, such as aspirin, warfarin, herbal supplements, or any other such medications
  • If you or your family members, have a history of bleeding disorders, or if there is a tendency to bleed more than normal
  • If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, chest pains, or have previously suffered from a heart attack
  • If you have ever been diagnosed with blood clots in your leg (deep vein thrombosis) or lung (embolism of lung)
  • If you have a history of frequent bone fractures (this may affect bone-healing, if bones are involved as part of your procedure)
  • A list of all previous surgical procedures you have undergone, like for example: Removal of appendix, gallbladder, or any other part, of your body; surgical repair of any body part, such as hernia repair, perforation of bowel wall, etc. 

What Preparations are needed, prior to the Procedure?

  • Avoid application of any cosmetics, deodorant, or topical medicines on the area, prior to the procedure
  • It is advisable to quit smoking and the use of any nicotine based products, for a while, before the surgery
  • Consumption of alcoholic drinks must also be avoided for a period of time, as instructed
  • For persons suffering from diabetes, it is important that the blood sugar stays within the normal range; if not their diabetologist may have to control blood sugar by recommending insulin and/or a combination of oral medicines
  • A physician will request your consent for Superficial Abscess Drainage procedure using an Informed Consent Form.

What is the Consent Process before the Procedure?

A physician will request your consent for the Superficial Abscess Drainage procedure using an Informed Consent Form.

Consent for the Procedure: A “consent” is your approval to undergo a procedure. A consent form is signed after the risks and benefits of the procedure, and alternative treatment options, are discussed. This process is called informed consent.

You must sign the forms only after you are totally satisfied by the answers to your questions. In case of minors and individuals unable to personally give their consent, the individual’s legal guardian or next of kin, shall give their consent for the procedure.

What Tests are needed, before the Superficial Abscess Drainage surgical procedure?

No particular tests are required before the procedure; however, sometimes the physician may ask for routine urine analysis and blood test. The physician may determine the extent of blood tests that are needed.

What are some Questions for your Physician?

Some of the questions that you may consider asking your physician are as follows:

  • What is an abscess?
  • What is a Superficial Abscess Drainage procedure?
  • Why is this procedure necessary? How will it help?
  • What does the procedure involve?
  • How soon should I get it done? Is it an emergency?
  • Can oral medications solve the problem?
  • Where is the procedure performed?
  • How many procedure have you (the physician) performed?
  • Does the procedure ensure that the abscess formation will not recur?
  • Does the procedure require anesthesia to be administered?
  • What are the risks while performing the procedure?
  • What are the complications that might take place, during recovery?
  • How long will it take to recover? When can I resume normal work?
  • After recovering from the procedure, are there any follow ups or tests? If yes, how often?
  • Who are the medical personnel involved in this procedure?
  • What is the cost of the procedure?

During the Superficial Abscess Drainage surgical procedure:

What kind of Anesthesia is given, during the Procedure?

Local anesthesia is administered in most cases. However, rarely the patient may be given general anesthesia. When general anesthesia is necessary, the procedure is usually performed at a hospital surgery facility.

How much Blood will you lose, during the Procedure?

Since Abscess Drainage is a less invasive procedure, there is little blood loss involved.

What are the possible Risks and Complications during Superficial Abscess Drainage surgical procedure?

Excessive bleeding and infection are the possible risks and complications during a surgery. However if the patient suffers from obesity, uncontrolled diabetes, or any chronic ailment, it may increase the risks involved.

What Post-Operative Care is needed at the Healthcare Facility after Superficial Abscess Drainage surgical procedure?

At the healthcare facility, usually there is no requirement for any post-procedure care, unless any complications arise.

After the Superficial Abscess Drainage surgical procedure:

What are the possible Risks and Complications after Superficial Abscess Drainage surgical procedure?

Infection and recurrence of the abscess are the possible complications that may arise after the procedure.

What is the Prognosis after the Surgery?

  • Abscess Drainage often gives excellent results with decrease in pain, almost immediately after the procedure
  • However, sometimes repeated abscess formation may occur, which would require further medical intervention
  • The wound heals within 7-10 days. After about 2 days, the individual may no longer need a gauze dressing

When do you need to call your Physician?

Do contact your physician if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Pain, swelling, and redness around the incision site
  • Bleeding and drainage
  • Signs of infection
  • Dizziness
  • Fever
  • If any new symptoms is observed

What Post-Operative Care is needed at Home after Superficial Abscess Drainage surgical procedure?

At home, the following post-operative care is recommended, after an Abscess Drainage procedure:

  • The wound must be kept clean and dry
  • Complete the course of prescribed medication, if any
  • Eat a well-balanced diet

How long does it normally take to fully recover, from the Procedure?

It may take about 2-4 weeks to completely recover from the procedure.

Additional Information:

What happens to tissue (if any), taken out during the Procedure?

A Superficial Abscess Drainage procedure usually does not involve the removal of any tissue. Sometimes, necrotic tissue may be removed (debrided) and discarded after the surgery.

When should you expect results from the pathologist regarding tissue taken out, during the Procedure?

Since no tissue is sent for analysis, a pathologist does not get involved in the care of the patient.

Who will you receive a Bill from, after the Superficial Abscess Drainage surgical procedure?

It is important to note that the number of bills that the patient may receive depends on the arrangement the healthcare facility has with the physician and healthcare providers.

Sometimes, the patient may get a single bill that includes the healthcare facility charges and the physician charges. Alternatively, the patient might get multiple bills depending on the healthcare provider involved. For instance, the patient may get a bill from

  • the outpatient facility, physician’s office or hospital
  • the family doctor or general surgeon
  • an anesthesiologist (if anesthesia was administered)

The patient is advised to double check the type of billing before the Superficial Abscess Drainage procedure is performed. 

Thanks and Gratitude:

We sincerely acknowledge and thank Dr. Douglas J. Jones for reviewing the article. His valuable input and feedback has helped enrich the contents of this article.

Douglas J. Jones, MD FACS
Board Certified General Surgeon and Faculty Member
University of Illinois, College of Medicine at Urbana-Champaign
506 S. Mathews Ave., Urbana, IL 61801, USA

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: July 4, 2013
Last updated: Oct. 16, 2018