Management of cutaneous abscesses by dermatologists

Jason Chouake, Aimee Krausz, Brandon L. Adler, Hillel W. Cohen, Joshua D. Nosanchuk, Adam Friedman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


IMPORTANCE: There is currently no data detailing the degree to which dermatologists follow CDC/Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) guidelines in the treatment of abscesses, which recommend that incision and drainage (I+D) as primary therapy for skin and soft tissue infections (SSTI). OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the management of skin abscesses by dermatologists. DESIGN, SETTING, PARTICIPANTS: A national email survey of 780 dermatologists was conducted from May-June 2012. Awareness, experience, and preparedness of respondents for abscess treatment, as well as the treatment practices in different clinical scenarios were evaluated. Response rate = 65% (n=510). Eligibility criteria: board certified/eligible dermatologists practicing in US. Main practice affiliation: solo (20%), group (33%), university health system/academic (32%), multi-specialty (13%), and other (2%). Main practice setting: urban (49%), suburban (42%), and rural (9%). MAIN OUTCOME and MEASURES: Practitioner report of: awareness of national guidelines, use of I+D in initial management of uncomplicated abscess found on face, trunk, and extremity on patients age 6 months, 3, 15, 50, and 80 years, and use of antibiotics in the initial management. RESULTS: 99% of respondents were capable of performing I+D in their practice. The IDSA recommends cultures in all patients treated with antibiotic therapy, and does not recommend antibiotics for the treatment of simple abscess. 18% of respondents reported culturing abscesses less than 50% of the time, while 91% incorporated antibiotics into initial treatment. Nearly a quarter (24%) of respondents would choose an initial antibiotic that would not cover Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). For facial abscesses, as the age of the patient increased from infant, respondents were more likely to incorporate I+D into their initial treatment. For abscesses on the trunk and extremities, respondents were less likely to I+D infants and toddlers, compared to adolescents, adults and the elderly. CONCLUSION: Although most dermatologists were prepared to manage uncomplicated abscesses (98%), this survey identifies gaps in clinical standards of care established by the CDC/IDSA. Identification of these practice gaps may impact physician practice and dermatology residency curricula, and may serve to improve abscess management and antibacterial stewardship in the outpatient setting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-124
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Drugs in Dermatology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dermatology


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