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MP53: Management of cutaneous abscesses in the emergency department: a survey of Canadian practice patterns

  • B. Rostas (a1), D. Pringle (a1), M. Columbus (a1) and J. Yan (a1)

Abstract

Introduction: The treatment of cutaneous abscesses in the Emergency Department (ED) is common. While most sources describe only incision and drainage (I&D) followed by healing through secondary intention, recent literature suggests that primary repair following I&D results in similar rates of healing as well as treatment failures when compared to standard care in the ED. The primary goal of this research project was to describe the variability in practice with respect to self-reported management of abscesses among Canadian ED physicians and explore potential reluctance in adopting primary repair as a management strategy. Methods: An electronic survey was distributed through the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians (CAEP). Practicing physician members of CAEP were invited to complete the survey. The 9-question survey probed the willingness of physicians to perform primary closure of abscess in the ED as well as factors that dissuade them from performing this type of closure. The primary outcome was the quantification of practice variability among ED physicians with respect to abscess closure in the ED. The data was presented with simple descriptive statistics. Results: 217 surveys were completed out of 1145 eligible physicians. Physicians working at academic centres comprised 53% of responses, with 47% coming from community centres. Over half of responses were from physicians in practice at least ten years (65.9%). The overwhelming majority of physicians indicated that they manage abscesses following I&D by secondary closure (96.3%). The two main concerns dissuading respondents from performing primary closure of abscesses included risk of treatment failure (47.8%) and the procedure not being considered standard of care (36.7%). Despite these concerns, 67.3% of physicians indicated a willingness to perform primary closure if further evidence supported its use. These physicians were most likely to consider primary closure at the head and neck, breast, trunk, and extremities, however, only 1.5% considered primary closure appropriate for perianal or pilonidal abscesses. Conclusion: This study demonstrates that almost all Canadian ED physicians, regardless of experience or practice centre, manage cutaneous abscesses with I&D followed by healing via secondary intention. With increasing evidence supporting the use of primary closure, many physicians may be willing to adopt primary closure as part of the management of cutaneous abscesses in the ED.

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