Randomized trial comparing wound packing to no wound packing following incision and drainage of superficial skin abscesses in the pediatric emergency department
OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to investigate the impact of wound packing versus no wound packing on short-term failure rates and long-term recurrences after incision and drainage (I&D) of a simple cutaneous abscess.
METHODS: In this randomized, single-blind, prospective study, subjects between the ages 1 and 25 years with skin abscesses needing an I&D were enrolled consecutively and randomized to be packed or not packed following the procedure. Treatment failure was assessed at a 48-hour follow-up visit by a masked observer who rated the need for a major intervention (repeat I&D or re-exploration) or minor intervention (antibiotics initiated or changed, need for packing, or repeat visit). Pain scores were assessed using color analog scales before and after the procedure and repeated at the 48-hour follow-up visit. Healing and abscess recurrence were assessed via telephone interview at 1 week and 1 month.
RESULTS: Fifty-seven subjects were enrolled over a 15-month period. Overall failure rates were similar between the groups, with 19 (70%) of 27 subjects in the packed group needing an intervention by 48 hours compared with 13 (59%) of 22 subjects in the nonpacked group who needed an intervention (difference, 11%; 95% confidence interval, -15% to 36%). Major and minor intervention rates were also similar. Pain scores did not significantly differ between groups.
CONCLUSIONS: Wound packing does not appear to significantly impact the failure or recurrence rates after simple I&D. Larger studies are needed to better validate the equivalency of these 2 strategies.