Abscess Incision and Drainage


An abscess, also referred to as a boil, is a painful collection of pus that has built up within the tissue of the body, usually caused by a bacterial infection. They can develop almost anywhere on the body and in most cases the abscess will be swollen and inflamed.


Causes of an Abscess

Typically, abscesses are caused by a bacterial infection. They form as a result of a build-up of pus in a hole created from white blood cells, sent by your immune system, attacking the bacteria.


Where can you get an Abscess?

Abscesses can form anywhere on the body, but usually appear on your back, armpits, the groin, at the base of the spine, around a tooth or hair follicles. You will probably feel the urge to prod it as pain and inflammation increases. You should avoid doing this, as rather than helping to clear it up, you are likely to make the infection worse which could cause long-term complications such as an infection in the bloodstream (sepsis) and scarring.


Symptoms of an Abscess

The most common symptom of an abscess is a painful, compressible area of the skin that can either look like a large spot or an open sore. It may also feel tender and warm, with pus coming out of the area.


There are 2 different types of abscesses; skin abscesses and internal abscesses.  


Symptoms of a Skin Abscess include:


  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Redness
  • A visible build-up of pus
  • Fever


Symptoms of an Internal Abscess include:


  • Discomfort in the affected area
  • Fever
  • Sickness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pains
  • Diagnosing of an Abscess


Prior to diagnosis, your doctor will examine the affected area and will ask you how long you have had the abscess; whether you have any other symptoms and whether you have injured that particular area. Questions may include:


  • Whether the abscess is painful
  • When the abscess formed
  • If you have a history of abscesses


Your doctor may drain some pus from the abscess to send off for analysis in order to identify the type of infection you have.


Abscess Incision and Drainage Treatment

In some cases, the abscess will drain naturally and recover without the need for any medical treatment. However, if treatment is required, a course of antibiotics will often precede an abscess drainage. This not only treats the infection, but prevents it from occurring elsewhere in the body.


Before the incision, the affected area will be cleaned and sterilised. Usually a local anaesthetic which numbs the specific area is administered near to the abscess.


Procedure for Draining a Skin Abscess


  • An incision is made over the abscess
  • The doctor drains the pus out
  • Once the pus is removed the area is cleaned
  • The wound is left open but covered, to allow any more pus to drain away


For a small internal abscess, the pus is usually drained using a needle inserted through the skin. The doctor may use ultrasound or CT scans to locate the abscess. Once located, the doctor will make a small incision and insert a thin plastic tube (drainage catheter). The catheter drains the pus in to a bag, usually within a day, although sometimes it may need to be left in place for up to a week. This procedure is generally carried out on a day case basis, although in some cases you may have to stay in for longer.


You may require surgery if the abscess is too large, a needle cannot reach it or drainage has been ineffective. The type of surgery will depend on the size and location of the abscess.


Post-Operative Recovery

Recovery time from abscess drainage depends on the location and the severity. Usually the dressing on the wound will only need to be in place for a couple of days, or a week for larger incisions. Slight pus leakage can be expected for a day or two after the procedure, but the dressing will need to be changed if it becomes too damp.


Risks and Complications

The incision and drainage procedure is relatively straightforward, although in some cases an abscess may cause complications. These may include:


  • Blood poisoning (when bacteria gets into the blood stream)
  • Infection
  • Endocarditis (an infection of the heart’s inner lining)
  • New abscesses
  • Necrosis (the death of body tissue when not enough blood flows to the tissue)
  • An acute bone infection (such as osteomyelitis)


Is the Abscess Likely to Return?

If there the infected area was treated thoroughly, then it is unlikely that your abscess will return. However, if the abscess was not entirely removed, it could reform, either in the initial site or somewhere else on the body. It is important that you follow the recovery process and ensure you take any medication you have been prescribed. If you are given a course of antibiotics, you must take the complete course. This will help reduce the chance of the infection persisting and cause further complications.


Need Help?

At One Healthcare we can book you in to see a specialist surgeon, usually within 48 hours, for an initial consultation.  Abscess Incision and Drainage is available at One Ashford Hospital in Kent and One Hatfield Hospital in Hertfordshire.


You can use your private medical insurance or pay for your Abscess Incision and Drainage treatment. We offer competitive, fixed price packages as well as the ability to spread your cost with the option of 0% finance. If you are using your health insurance, please contact your insurer first for approval and let them know you’d like to be treated at either the One Ashford Hospital or One Hatfield Hospital.

Why One Healthcare

  • Modern purpose-built hospital opened in March 2016 (Ashford) December 2017 (Hatfield)
  • Fast access to diagnostics including MRI, X-ray and Ultrasound
  • Private, spacious, en-suite rooms
  • Specialist Physiotherapy and nursing teams
  • Little or no waiting time
  • ‘Ultra clean air’ theatres
  • Freshly prepared food
  • Calm, dignified experience

Contact us and find out more

If you live in and around the Kent area and would like to visit our One Ashford Hospital please click here

If you are based in and around Hertfordshire and would like to visit the One Hatfield Hospital please click here.

Contact the Hospital About Abscess Incision and Drainage

Choose a Hospital

One Ashford

01233 423 000

One Ashford, Kennington Road, Willesborough, Ashford, Kent, TN24 0YS

One Ashford Hospital
One Hatfield

01707 443 459

One Hatfield Hospital, Hatfield Ave, Hatfield, AL10 9UA

One Hatfield Hospital