Loop and drain technique for subcutaneous abscess: a safe minimally invasive procedure in an adult population

ANZ J Surg. 2018 Jan;88(1-2):87-90. doi: 10.1111/ans.13709. Epub 2016 Sep 12.


Background: This study evaluated the safety, efficacy and compliance of an emerging technique for managing complex subcutaneous abscesses in an adult population (≥16 years).

Methods: A retrospective review of prospectively collected data between April and October 2015 at a rural hospital comparing conventional incision drainage (CID) and repetitive packing to the minimal incision, irrigation, loop and drain technique (LDT). LDT method was consistent with previous publications, being ≤5 mm incisions at abscess edges, irrigation and passage of a VessiLoop through the cavity and then secured above the skin. The loop remained in situ until resolution. Both groups had empirical oral antibiotics.

Results: Sixty-three patients required intervention for complex subcutaneous abscess: CID group had 27 patients and LDT had 36 patients. The mean age of CID group was 43.9 years (range: 16-86 years), all required intervention in theatre with 10 patients lost to follow-up (37%) and the remaining 17 required a mean of 11.8 (range: 1-17) care visits. The mean age of LDT group was 34.9 years (range: 16-62 years), 11 completed intervention in ED under local anaesthetic (30%) and 27 required general anaesthesia. Compliance to follow-up clinic was 100%: 27 seen once at 10-14 days with loop removal and nine were seen a second time to complete care. There were no re-operations.

Conclusion: This is the first LDT data in adults and proves it is safe and effective. It saves operating theatre time with 30% of LDT treated in the Emergency Department and ensures excellent follow-up compliance as patients return for VessiLoop removal. Healthcare burden is greatly reduced using LDT; most patients require only one review at 10-14 days.

MeSH terms

  • Abscess / surgery*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Bandages
  • Drainage / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Skin Diseases / surgery*
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents