We used computed tomography (CT) and ultrasonography for detection and localization of intra-abdominal abscesses. On the basis of these images, safe routes for diagnostic aspiration and percutaneous drainage were planned. Over these routes indwelling catheters were inserted to provide immediate decompression, evacuation, and continuous drainage until the abscess resolved. All patients received concomitant intravenous antibiotics. The treatment was used for 71 abscesses in 67 patients. Sixty-one abscesses (86 per cent) were satisfactorily drained. There were 11 complications (15 per cent). Six deaths were attributable to sepsis, three of which (4 per cent) were related to inadequate drainage. There was one recurrence (1 per cent) during a follow-up period ranging from one month to five years (means, 22.3 months). The mean duration of treatment was 20.2 days (range, five to 120 days). We conclude that percutaneous drainage is an effective method for treatment of abdominal abscesses and is indicated when sectional imaging demonstrates an accessible unilocular lesion.