Abscess incision and drainage

Draining pus from an abscess (boil)

If you have an abscess, HCA UK provides abscess drainage surgery to treat the condition.


An abscess (boil) is a pus-filled lump that occurs as a result of a bacterial infection. It appears under the surface of the skin and can also develop internally in an organ.

When your immune system sends white blood cells to the affected area, some of the nearby tissue dies. A hole is created which then fills with pus, causing an abscess to form.

Need to know

  • What happens icon plus

    Small abscesses may drain naturally and disappear on their own without treatment. However, larger abscesses may require treatment to remove them, through abscess drainage. Skin abscess drainage involves a small cut being made in the skin and the pus being drained using a needle. The hole will then be cleaned with sterile saline (a salt solution) to prevent further infection. If the abscess is deep, gauze wick (antiseptic dressing) will be used to aid healing. Internal abscesses are drained through percutaneous abscess drainage. This involves the abscess being drained with a fine needle and thin plastic tube (drainage catheter).
  • How to prepare icon plus

    Abscess drainage is generally a very safe procedure. However, as with any surgery, there are some risks and side effects involved. Your consultant will explain these to you and answer any questions you might have. Skin abscess drainage is performed under local anaesthetic. Depending on the location of internal abscesses, percutaneous abscess drainage is either performed under local or general anaesthetic. We will let you know in advance how long to avoid eating and drinking before your surgery. When percutaneous abscess drainage is completed, the drainage catheter may be left in place for up to a week.
  • Afterwards icon plus

    After the procedure, you will be taken to the recovery unit, where our dedicated team will look after you. You’ll be given pain relief medication if you need it and antibiotics to help kill the infection. These may be given intravenously (directly into the vein) or as tablets. Most abscess drainage procedures are performed as day cases. You won’t need to stay in hospital long and should be able to go home after one day. Your consultant or specialist nurse will let you know when you can leave the hospital. They will also advise you on how to manage your recovery and when you can get back to your usual daily routines.

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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