A Randomized Controlled Trial of Novel Loop Drainage Technique Versus Standard Incision and Drainage in the Treatment of Skin Abscesses

Acad Emerg Med. 2020 Dec;27(12):1229-1240. doi: 10.1111/acem.14106. Epub 2020 Oct 11.


Objectives: The objective was to compare the failure rate of incision and drainage (I&D) with LOOP technique versus I&D with standard packing technique in adults and children presenting to the emergency department (ED) with subcutaneous abscess.

Methods: This prospective, randomized controlled trial (NCT03398746) enrolled a convenience sample of patients presenting to two Level 1 trauma centers over 12 months with skin abscesses. Of 256 patients screened, 217 patients were enrolled, 109 randomized to I&D with packing (50%) and 108 (50%) to I&D with LOOP. The primary outcome was treatment failure defined by admission, IV antibiotics, or repeat drainage within 10-day follow-up. The secondary outcomes included ease of procedure, ease of care, pain, and satisfaction using a 10-point numeric rating scale.

Results: There were no differences in patient characteristics between groups. Follow-up data were available in 196 (90%). Treatment failure occurred in 20% (range = 12%-28%) of packing patients and 13% (range = 6%-20%) of LOOP patients (p = 0.25). There were no significant differences in failure rates in adults (p = 0.82), but there was a significant difference in children (age ≤ 18 years) at 21% (range = 8%-34%) in the packing group and 0 (0%) in the LOOP group (p = 0.002). Operators reported no significant differences in ease of procedure between techniques (p = 0.221). There was significantly less pain at follow-up in the LOOP group versus packing (p = 0.004). The wound was much easier to care for over the first 36 hours in the LOOP group (p = 0.002). Patient satisfaction at 10 days postprocedure was significantly higher in the LOOP group (p = 0.005).

Conclusions: The LOOP and packing techniques had similar failure rates for treatment of subcutaneous abscesses in adults, but the LOOP technique had significantly fewer failures in children. Overall, pain and patient satisfaction were significantly better in patients treated using the LOOP technique.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Abscess* / surgery
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Drainage
  • Humans
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reference Standards
  • Skin Diseases* / surgery

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03398746