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Trick of the Trade: Incision and loop drainage of abscesses

Posted Aug 14 2012 12:00am

Why are we still teaching the traditional incision and drainage approach to simple abscess drainage? They require frequent, painful packing changes to ensure persistent drainage of retained pus.

Trick of the Trade:
Incision and loop drainage (I&LD) technique

As per usual, Dr. Rob Orman ( ercast ) beat me to this. He already reviewed the technique on his blog in 2010. This stems from a landmark article in the Journal of Pediatric Surgery, which involves creating a persistently draining fistula at two points by using a small vascular loop, tied into a non-tensile loop.

It makes sense to extrapolate and use this technique for both pediatric and adult patients with uncomplicated abscess, especially if the patients may not follow-up for packing changes as scheduled. The added benefit is that showering is encouraged to help encourage drainage without the risk of dislodging the secured loop.

Does anyone have experience with this that they would like to share? Particularly, what if you don't have the skinny vascular loops in your Emergency Department?

What are the follow-up instructions?
Per the Tsoraides article
  • Take a bath/shower TWICE daily for the first 3 days.
  • Remove the loop in 7-10 days (when the drainage stops and the overlying cellulitis resolves)

VessiLoop Presentation from V. Bonales, M.D.
Tsoraides SS, Pearl RH, Stanfill AB, Wallace LJ, Vegunta RK. Incision and loop drainage: a minimally invasive technique for subcutaneous abscess management in children. J Pediatr Surg. 2010 Mar;45(3):606-9.  Pubmed  
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