Public Release: 

Irrigation of cutaneous abscesses may not be necessary

American College of Emergency Physicians

WASHINGTON -- A procedure commonly performed in emergency departments on cutaneous abscesses may not have any impact on the need for further interventions and therefore may not be necessary, according to a study published online Friday in Annals of Emergency Medicine ("Irrigation of Cutaneous Abscesses Does Not Improve Treatment Success").

"Despite the lack of evidence supporting its use, irrigation of cutaneous abscesses has routinely been part of incision and drainage (I&D) treatment for these wounds," said lead study author Brian Chinnock, MD, of University of California San Francisco-Fresno emergency medicine program "There was no difference in the need for future intervention between patients who had irrigation and patients who did not have it as part of I&D."

Of patients who received irrigation as part of I&D treatment for cutaneous abscesses, 15 percent required further intervention. Of those who did not receive irrigation, 13 percent required further intervention. There was no difference in pain scores between the two groups. More than a million patients a year have I&D for cutaneous abscesses in U.S. emergency departments.

"Potential disadvantages of irrigation include increased treatment time, increased costs and increased risk of microbiologic contamination of the surrounding area," said Dr. Chinnock. "Based on this study, irrigation should not be considered a standard part of incision and drainage of cutaneous abscesses."

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Annals of Emergency Medicine is the peer-reviewed scientific journal for the American College of Emergency Physicians, the national medical society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research, and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies. For more information, visit http://www.acep.org.

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