Treatment of subcutaneous abscesses in children with incision and loop drainage: A simplified method of care

J Pediatr Surg. 2017 Sep;52(9):1438-1441. doi: 10.1016/j.jpedsurg.2016.12.018. Epub 2016 Dec 30.


Purpose: The aim of this study was to expand on our previous report of 115 patients after more than a decade-long experience using incision and loop drainage for pediatric subcutaneous abscess management. This report comprises the largest consecutive series of pediatric abscess patients from a single institution ever recorded.

Methods: A retrospective study was performed of all pediatric patients who underwent incision and loop drainage of subcutaneous abscesses at our institution between January 2002 and December 2014.

Technique: Two sub 5mm incisions were made at the periphery on the abscess. The abscess cavity was probed to break down loculations and drain pus. The abscess cavity was irrigated with normal saline. A loop drain was passed through one incision and brought out through the other. A simple absorbent dressing was applied over the drain.

Results: Five hundred seventy-six consecutive patients underwent loop drainage procedures. Mean values are as follows: age, 3.84years; duration of symptoms, 6.17days; postoperative length of stay (with 4 outliers excluded), 0.69days; drain duration, 8.38days; and number of postoperative visits, 1.28. Twenty-six patients had reoperations (4.5%), 2 of which were planned staged excisions of pilonidal cysts and 1 because of accidental home removal.

Conclusions: Micro-incisions and loop drainage is a safe and effective treatment modality for subcutaneous abscesses in children. The findings eliminate the need for repetitive wound packing and simplify postoperative wound care. Loop drainage offers shorter time to discharge, lower recurrence rates, and minimal scarring. Additionally, there is expected cost reduction. We recommend this minimally invasive procedure to be the standard of care for subcutaneous abscesses in children.

Type of study: Treatment study - retrospective review.

Level of evidence: Level IV - case series with no comparison group.

Keywords: Abscess; Loop drain; Minimally invasive.

MeSH terms

  • Abscess / diagnosis
  • Abscess / surgery*
  • Bandages
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Drainage / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Minimally Invasive Surgical Procedures / methods*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Subcutaneous Tissue / surgery*
  • Treatment Outcome