What is an Abscess or Fluid Incision
and Drainage Procedure?

Everything you need to know about this procedure for women

Abscesses can be quite painful and, if left untreated, they can cause more complications. Small abscesses may be treated with antibiotics and warm compresses, but sometimes this isn’t enough. Therefore, your women’s health doctor may recommend an abscess drainage procedure.

Continue reading to learn more about what this procedure entails, including abscess incision and drainage recovery time and whether there's a chance of recurrence.

What is an abscess?

An abscess is a pocket of pus that comes up under an inflamed area of your skin. An infection can cause swelling and death of nearby tissue. When a cavity results, it fills with pus (a mixture of the dead tissue, bacteria, and blood cells), thus creating an abscess. A bacterial infection is usually the underlying cause of these abscesses.

The procedure that is used to clear out the pus and enable healing is abscess drainage. In some cases, you might not need to drain smaller pus pockets.

How is an abscess or fluid incision and drainage procedure done?

Doctors will usually prescribe antibiotics before one of these procedures to help bring the infection under control, as well as keep it from spreading. If the cause of the disease is not determined before the process, a sample from the pus will be taken to help identify this cause.

Your doctor might order imaging tests in the case of a deep or large abscess. Another preliminary step your doctor may take is updating your tetanus booster.

In cases of a severe infection, you might need to be admitted as a hospital inpatient for observation and more intensive treatment. Otherwise, this procedure is usually an outpatient procedure.

The area where the incision and drainage (I & D) procedure will be performed is always sterilized first. In most cases, a local anesthetic like bupivacaine or lidocaine will be used. Sedation or general anesthesia might be necessary in more complicated cases. Either way, you will need to have someone drive you home after the procedure.

After the local anesthetic has had a chance to take effect, the doctor will make an incision and drain out the pus. A sterile saline solution will be used to clean this area out, and wound dressing will be applied to help absorb further fluid. If the abscess is broad or deep, the doctor might insert gauze wick to help absorb liquid and allow healing from the inside out.

What’s the recovery process like?

The care after abscess I & D, as well as recovery time, will depend on the infection's severity and where it occurred. At the very least, a dressing change will be necessary anywhere from a few days to a week after the procedure.

A dressing that gets wet will need to be changed. When wick material is inside the cavity where the abscess was, your doctor will either repack or remove it a few days after the procedure.

For the first day or two after the procedure, you might have some drainage. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics as well as pain medication.

What to expect the week after

You'll receive instructions on things like showering after an abscess drainage so that you don't experience issues related to a wet dressing. Your doctor will ideally be able to remove your dressing and inside packing if everything is in good shape, as well as instruct you on follow-up care.

Gentle cleaning with soap and water before applying a fresh dressing is usually recommended. If any topical products are involved, you will also receive instructions on how to use these.

Warm compresses might be recommended for managing pain after an abscess drainage, usually 3-4 times a day. You can expect a faster healing process using these compresses.

When healing correctly, the abscess cavity will heal from the inside out. You can reasonably expect healing to take 1-2 weeks.

Can the abscess return?

In most cases, the chance of an abscess coming back after proper treatment is very minimal. Taking all of the prescribed antibiotics is the best way to eliminate all of the infection.

The abscess could come back in the same spot or elsewhere if the infection wasn't eliminated. One possible complication could be a methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA infection.

Such infections are contracted from contact with another MRSA-infected person or from being in a hospital setting, which is why these infections are often called community-acquired. Antibiotics and draining are the usual ways to treat these types of infections.

Is this procedure safe?

An abscess or fluid incision is usually a safe procedure that resolves the problem. However, following your doctor's orders is an integral part of the outcome. The chances of a full recovery without recurrence are low when you follow orders.

OB/GYN specialists at All About Women Obstetrics & Gynecology in Gainesville and Lake City offer the most compassionate, comprehensive healthcare for women of all ages across North Florida. If you have any questions about the abscess drainage procedure or other women’s health issues, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with one of our experts.