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Fluid drainage

Percutaneous abscess drainage procedure

Percutaneous abscess drainage procedure is a minimally invasive option to remove infected fluid from the body using image guidance. In a percutaneous abscess drainage procedure, the interventional radiologist uses imaging guidance (CT, ultrasound or fluoroscopy) to identify a safe route for placement of a thin needle into a fluid collection to remove or drain potentially infected fluid from an area of the body such as the chest, abdomen or pelvis. A small flexible drainage tube can be left in place to help drain the fluid to completion. It may take several days for all the fluid to be removed.

Conditions treated by this procedure

An abscess is an infected fluid collection in the body. Children who have an abscess can develop a fever, chills and pain in the general location of the area that is involved. If a child has these symptoms, it is not uncommon that they will undergo an initial imaging test to help identify and make the correct diagnosis of an abscess. Once the diagnosis of an abscess has been made, your physician can consult an interventional radiologist who is an expert in the use of image guidance for abscess drainage. If it is deemed safe, percutaneous abscess drainage offers a minimally invasive therapy that can be used to treat the abscess.

Pleural effusion is the accumulation of fluid in the chest that can cause breathing symptoms. The fluid can accumulate as a reaction of both heart or lung issues. The fluid can also become infected. Similar to an abscess the pleural effusion fluid can be removed with a percutaneous drainage procedure.

Treatment & recovery process

The procedure typically requires 30 – 60 minutes to complete. Frequently, sedation or anesthesia will be used to help facilitate the successful completion of the procedure. This helps to minimize anxiety for the child and decrease risk of complications as a result of movement during the procedure. The child can generally sit in bed, a chair or walk with the tube in place following the procedure.

The drain may need to remain in place for several days to allow for complete drainage of the fluid collection. Upon removal of the drainage tube your child can resume normal activities.

Your child may have some soreness at the site of insertion. Typically this can be well controlled with ibuprofen or Tylenol.

Percutaneous abscess drainage procedure benefits

No surgical incision is required—only a small skin nick is made at the site for needle puncture. There is no need to have a stitch to close the skin puncture. Generally the recovery period is faster than after open surgical drainage.

Percutaneous abscess drainage procedure risks

Any procedure where the skin is penetrated carries a potential risk of infection. The chance of developing an infection that requires added antibiotic treatment appears to be less than one in 1,000. Very rarely, an adjacent organ may be injured by percutaneous abscess drainage. Rarely significant bleeding may occur. The drainage catheter, placed for percutaneous abscess drainage, may become blocked or displaced requiring adjustment or changing of the catheter. Large collections may require more than one drainage tube to be placed.

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Center of Excellence


Children's Hospital of Wisconsin's imaging department just received the Diagnostic Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology. Our imaging department was the third children's hospital in the nation to receive this prestigious credential.