Incision and Drainage

What is an incision and drainage (I&D)?

Incision and drainage is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that drains abscesses and pus-filled cysts. Also known as clinical lancing, this procedure releases built up pus and pressure underneath the skin to avoid further infections and complications with the skin.

Did you know…

According to 2013 data from the CDC, cutaneous abscesses account for at least 2 percent of all emergency room cases. Over the last 20 years, skin and soft tissue infections have increased, doubling hospitalizations among pediatric cases. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How is an incision and drainage performed?

Your provider will apply an antiseptic solution to clean the area and then numb the area with a local anesthetic before the procedure. Then, the abscess or cyst will be incised with a scalpel, drained, and irrigated with saline solution. A culture of the cyst fluid will be collected and sent out to a laboratory to determine the type of bacteria causing the infection. The results will allow your provider to know which antibiotics will work best to relieve the infection. Once the open wound is drained, the area will be packed with packing gauze to collect the cyst fluid furthermore. You will need to return to the office every few days to change the gauze and monitor the healing process.

What are the side effects of incision and drainage?

The most common side effect is pain after this procedure. You are recommended to take ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help relieve the pain. If inadequately drained, the infection can spread to adjacent tissues. Patients with immunocompromised systems or diabetes will often require follow-ups to prevent reinfection. If symptoms of worsening pain, swelling, fever, and vomiting are present, seek emergency care immediately.

What does recovery look like for incision and drainage?

While the initial treatment is curative for abscesses and cysts, antibiotics are prescribed to prevent reinfection and to assist the body destroy bacteria or dead cells. For at-home care, patients should change their dressing as needed, soak the area in warm water or warm compresses to encourage drainage, and take over-the-counter medicines such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen. To monitor the healing process, you will be asked to follow-up every few days until the wound is completely closed.