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Abscess Drainage

An abscess is a pocket of pus that forms around an infection. Pus is a fluid made up of germs (bacteria), white blood cells, and other matter. Abscess drainage is a way of draining pus from an infected area or organ inside the body. This helps the infection heal. The procedure is often done by a specially trained doctor called an interventional radiologist.

Patient lying on stomach under x-ray machine. Two healthcare providers in led aprons are preparing machine and to perform procedure.

Before the Procedure

Follow any instructions you are given on how to prepare, including:

  • Do not eat or drink anything for 6 hours before the procedure.

  • Tell the technologist what medications, herbs, or supplements you take; if you are, or may be, pregnant; or if you are allergic to contrast medium (X-ray dye) or other medications.

During the Procedure

  • You will change into a hospital gown and lie on an X-ray table. You may lie on your back, front, or side, depending on the site of the abscess.

  • An IV (intravenous) line is put into a vein to give you fluids and medications. You may be given medication through the IV to help you relax.

  • The skin over the abscess is cleaned. A local anesthetic is applied to numb the skin.

  • Using CT (computed tomography), X-ray, or ultrasound images as a guide, the radiologist puts a needle through the skin and guides it to the abscess. The needle is then replaced with a catheter (thin, flexible tube).

  • Pus drains from the abscess through the catheter. A bag or suction bulb will be attached to the catheter to hold the pus as it drains.

  • The entire procedure may take 30 minutes or longer, depending on the location of the abscess.

Potential Risks and Complications

  • Bruising or infection near the insertion site

  • Spread of the infection

  • Problems due to contrast medium, including allergic reaction or kidney damage

After the Procedure

  • A slight fever is normal for the first 24 hours after the procedure.

  • The catheter and drainage bag will likely remain in place for several days. Follow any instructions you are given for caring for the catheter and drainage site.

  • Call your doctor if you have a fever over 100°F (37.7°C) , you feel new or worsened pain, fluid stops draining from the tube, or the tube moves or comes out.

  • See your doctor for a follow-up appointment to assess the infection and to have the catheter removed.


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