Abscess Drainage

Abscess DrainageAn abscess is a localized collection of pus, bacteria, and debris that is usually caused by an infection. They are typically painful, red, swollen and warm to the touch. Abscesses can form anywhere in the body but are most commonly found in the skin of the armpits, groin, or in the area near the rectum (perirectal). Left untreated, an abscess can spread into deeper tissue or even into the bloodstream.

Click here to see information specific to Peri-Rectal Abscess treatment.


Large or persistent abscesses that do not clear up with antibiotic therapy may need to be drained surgically.

Pre-Op Evaluation and Prep: 

Patients will have a physical exam by the surgeon to discuss symptoms and determine if surgery is needed. You may need to take or continue antibiotics before surgery. Routine blood work is usually not needed but may be ordered prior to surgery based on the patient's age and the presence of any existing medical problems. For more information related to preparation for surgery click here.


Abscesses may be drained under general anesthesia or sedation depending on the size and location of the infection. The surgeon will make an incision on the skin above or near the abscess to drain the collected pus and debris. The skin will usually be left open and covered with a gauze dressing to allow the wound to continue draining. The surgeon may send some fluid from the wound for testing to determine the cause of the infection.


This varies from patient to patient. Most patients feel relief from a painful abscess almost immediately. Most return to desk type work the next day. You will probably not have any lifting restrictions. More strenuous jobs, such as those requiring heavy lifting, may not be feasible for a week or so depending upon the size and location of the abscess. It is rare for patients to need extended time off of work. Antibiotics may be prescribed to treat the cause of the infection.

While recovery instructions may be tailored to individualize a plan of care based upon your specific needs, these instructions are common following  abscess drainage:

  • You will need to arrange for a ride home the day of your surgery and we recommend someone stay with you for the first 24 hours at home.
  • When you leave the facility after surgery, we will want you to go home and rest. Avoid making any other plans on the day of your surgery. Starting the following day, you can increase your activity as you feel up to it.
  • Avoid fried foods, milk products and citrus juices for around one day after your surgery. Suggestions for foods to eat include soup, sandwich, pasta, potatoes, toast, and applesauce.  
  • The dressings applied to your surgical site will be specific to the location of your procedure.  If bandages are applied, they can usually be removed at home in 24-48 hours. The physician may want to see you back in about a week if any sutures need to be removed. You will receive care instructions specific to your procedure.
  • You may shower within a day or two after your surgery, but will need to avoid soaking in a tub or pool for around 1 week or until the area has healed.
  • You will likely be given a prescription for pain medication following your surgery. The recovery nurse will discuss a pain control plan following surgery specific to you and your needs including activities like ice applied over incisions and a medication regimen. Often times we will recommend taking Tylenol and Advil (same as Motrin, Ibuprofen) or Aleve in addition to the narcotic pain medication.
  • It is often suggested to start taking a stool softener twice daily the day following your procedure. You will want to continue this regimen as long as you are taking narcotic pain medications.

For additional information for after surgery preparation click here.

To Schedule an Appointment

To find out more about Abscess Drainage services offered at CSA Surgical Center in Columbia, Missouri please call Columbia Surgical Associates at 573-443-8773 and schedule an appointment.


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