Study objective: Emergency department visits for skin and soft tissue infections are increasing with the discovery of community-acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Whether abscesses treated surgically also require antibiotics is controversial. There are no published pediatric randomized controlled trials evaluating the need for antibiotics in skin abscess management. We determine the benefits of antibiotics in surgically managed pediatric skin abscesses.
Methods: This was a double-blind, randomized, controlled trial. Pediatric patients were randomized to receive 10 days of placebo or trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole after incision and draining. Follow-up consisted of a visit/call at 10 to 14 days and a call at 90 days. Primary outcome was treatment failure at the 10-day follow-up. Secondary outcome was new lesion development at the 10- and 90-day follow-ups. Noninferiority of placebo relative to trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole for primary and secondary outcomes was assessed.
Results: One hundred sixty-one patients were enrolled, with 12 lost to follow-up. The failure rates were 5.3% (n=4/76) and 4.1% (n=3/73) in the placebo and antibiotic groups, respectively, yielding a difference of 1.2%, with a 1-sided 95% confidence interval (CI) (-infinity to 6.8%). Noninferiority was established with an equivalence threshold of 7%. New lesions occurred at the 10-day follow-up: 19 on placebo (26.4%) and 9 on antibiotics (12.9%), yielding a difference of 13.5%, with 95% 1-sided CI (-infinity to 24.3%). At the 3-month follow-up, 15 of 52 (28.8%) in the placebo group and 13 of 46 (28.3%) in the antibiotic group developed new lesions. The difference was 0.5%, with 95% 1-sided CI (-infinity to 15.6%).
Conclusion: Antibiotics are not required for pediatric skin abscess resolution. Antibiotics may help prevent new lesions in the short term, but further studies are required.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00679302.
Copyright 2009 American College of Emergency Physicians. Published by Mosby, Inc. All rights reserved.