Percutaneous Drainage of an Abscess or Fluid Collection
Your doctor has scheduled you to have an
abscess or fluid collection drained on
_____________at________( )a.m., ( ) pm.
Report to G3/3 Radiology. Take the Atrium
elevators to the 3rd floor.
This handout explains what to do before and
after the procedure. Before they begin, our
doctors will explain it to you and ask for
What is an abscess or fluid collection?
This is an abnormal collection of fluid
within the body. It can result in pain,
infection, or prevent healing. Some small
fluid collections may go away on their own.
If they don’t, the fluid may need to be
drained. The fluid pocket may contain
serous fluid, blood, or pus-like material. If
the fluid is infected it must be treated.
How is the abscess or fluid collection
Your doctor has discussed with the
Interventional Radiologist the best method
to treat the fluid collection.
Many fluid collections can be safely drained
through percutaneous drainage. The fluid is
drained by going through the skin and tissue
to the fluid pocket. C.T. (Computerized
Axial Tomography scan) guidance,
ultrasound, or fluoroscopy is used to find the
best entry site for this drainage.
Before the procedure, an intravenous (IV)
catheter will be placed to give you fluids. It
will also be used for medicine for pain and
to relax you. You will be brought to the
Interventional Radiology suite where the
procedure will be performed. The site will
be marked and cleansed. The skin and
tissue will be numbed with lidocaine. After
the skin and tissue are numb, a needle is
placed through the skin and tissue to the
fluid collection. Fluid may be drawn out at
that time. In some cases a drainage tube is
put in place to keep the fluid draining. If a
drain tube is left in place, a dressing will be
applied. You will be given instructions on
how to care for the tube and dressing.
The fluid that is drawn out will be sent to the
lab and studied. This will help your doctor
plan your treatment.
A drainage tube may be left in place after
the fluid is taken out. This is most often
there is a large volume of drainage.
there is concern the fluid may come
the fluid is infected.
a fistula is suspected
The drainage tube will need to be checked at
a later date. This is done to make sure it is
still draining and to decide if it needs to stay
in place or if it can be removed.
The drainage tube will need to be changed
every 6-8 weeks to prevent infection. This
will be done in the same way as when the
tube was placed.
Most of the time the tube can be removed if
you no longer have a fever, your white
blood cell count is normal, and you only
have a very small amount of drainage from
the tube or none at all.
How do I prepare for this procedure?
ξ You may need to have lab tests done
the day of the procedure. If you just
had lab work done at another clinic,
bring a copy of the results with you.
ξ If you take a blood thinner daily, the
Interventional Radiology staff will
contact you and tell you when you
should stop taking your blood
ξ Stop eating solid foods 6 hours
before the procedure. You may have
clear liquids (such as apple juice, 7-
Up, weak coffee or tea) up to 4 hours
before the procedure. You can take
your usual medicines with a sip of
ξ If you are taking insulin, our staff
will give you instructions on how to
adjust the dose before the procedure.
Test your blood sugar in the morning
before coming to the radiology
department. We will also recheck
your blood sugar.
ξ Tell our staff if you are allergic to
latex, contrast dye, antibiotics,
anesthetic agents, or any other
medicine. Also, tell us if you are
pregnant or could be pregnant
ξ Please plan to have someone drive
you home. We strongly suggest you
have someone stay with you that
night. If any problems should occur
and you need medical care right
away, you would then have some
help. You should not drive or make
important decisions until the next
What happens after the drainage is
ξ You will return to your hospital room or
the recovery area where you will be
ξ Nurses will check your vital signs: pulse,
blood pressure, and temperature.
ξ Nurses will check the amount and color
of drainage from the tube.
ξ You should tell the nurses if you feel:
o fever or chills
o pain at the entry site of the tube
How do I care for myself at home?
Most patients are sent home with the
drainage tube in place. It is very important
that you know how to care for the tube once
you are home.
The dressing should be changed every 3
days. The tube site is cleaned when the
dressing is changed. Soap and water will be
used to clean the site. Then, a small sterile
gauze should be placed over the site and
covered with a Tegaderm™ dressing.
If your skin is sensitive to the Tegaderm™
dressing, you will follow the same steps, but
the gauze can be taped in place. In this case
the dressing needs to be changed daily.
How do I change the dressing?
1. Gather all supplies needed.
Mild soap( ie: Dove)
sterile 2x2 gauze dressings
medium size Tegaderm™
Clear adhesive tape or paper tape (if
sensitive to Tegaderm™)
Leg bags-only change if needed
Extension tubing (CTU-14)-only
change if needed
Blue caps for flushing the drain.
2. Wash hands well with soap and water
for 30 seconds.
3. Open the sterile 2x2 gauze, and
4. Remove the old dressing.
5. Check the tube site for signs of
increased tenderness or pain
increased redness or swelling
drainage that is green in color or
has a bad smell
6. Check that the stitches at the skin site are
still tight and not loose.
7. Using a clean wash cloth, clean around
the tube site with soap and water.
ξ Gently scrub the skin around the exit
ξ Rinse site with wet wash cloth
ξ Allow the area to dry completely
before putting the dressing on.
8. Place sterile 2x2 gauze under the tube
and then place another 2x2 gauze over
9. Cover the gauze with the Tegaderm®
Managing your tube
If the tube is left in, it will be attached to
extension tubing and a drainage bag. You
should try to keep the drainage bag lower
than the tube exit site. This helps it drain by
gravity. The extension tubing and drainage
bag should be changed every 2 – 4 weeks.
If you have a Bulb type drain:
ξ Open the drain and compress the
entire drain in one hand.
ξ Then recap the opening with your
ξ Empty and measure the amount of
drainage in the drain daily
ξ Keep a record of the amount of
ξ A follow up call will be made to you
weekly regarding the amount of
drainage from your
Please call the Radiology Department at
608-263-9729 if you have less than 20mls of
drainage in 2 consecutive days from your
abscess tube. You may be scheduled for a 6
week follow up appointment, but if the
drainage is less than 20mls the appointment
may be rescheduled to an earlier date.
The tube may need to be flushed each day.
You will be given a sheet telling you how to
flush your drain (Health Facts for You
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When to Call the Doctor
ξ Redness at the site.
ξ Greenish drainage.
ξ Excess swelling at the site.
ξ If you have a fever greater that
100.4° F. Take your temperature if
you are not feeling well.
ξ Pain at the tube site or in your side
where the tube has been placed that
does not go away with pain
ξ The stitches at the site come undone.
ξ The tube falls out.
ξ Severe nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
If you have any questions or problems once
you are at home, call the Radiology
Department (608) 263-9729. Evenings,
weekends, and holidays, this number will
give you the paging operator. Ask for the
Interventional Radiologist on call. Leave
your name and phone number with the area
code. The doctor will call you back.
If you live out of the area, please call
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright ©12/2016. University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6402.