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Volume 6, Pages 1118-1123
Research Article

The Limited Role of Microbiological Culture and Sensitivity in the Management of Superficial Soft Tissue Abscesses

1Salisbury District Hospital, Salisbury, UK
2City Hospital, Birmingham, UK
3Queens Hospital, Burton on Trent, UK

Received 8 June 2006; Revised 28 August 2006; Accepted 28 August 2006

Copyright © 2006 Muhammad N. Khan et al.


The aim of this study was to assess the role of the routine practice of microbial culture and sensitivity at incision and drainage of superficial soft tissue abscesses. The case notes of 162 consecutive patients, selected from the microbiology database over a period of 1 year, were reviewed. All had incision and drainage of superficial soft tissue abscesses and included perianal, pilonidal, axillary, and breast abscesses. Patients with chronic wounds, recurrent abscesses, diabetes, pregnancy, and immunosuppression were excluded. The impact of pus culture and sensitivity (C/S) on management and clinical outcome was documented. Out of 162 patients, 97 were male (59.8%) and 65 were female (40.1%). Only 115 (70.9%) yielded positive cultures and 47 (29.1%) were sterile. The cultured microbial flora was predictable and sensitive to empirical antibiotics. In four patients, the results of microbial culture sensitivity showed microbial resistance to empirical antibiotics; however, it did not affect the management or the outcome for these patients. The routine practice of sending swabs for C/S after incision and drainage of superficial soft tissue abscesses does not contribute significantly towards patient management. Most patients are already on antibiotics prior to the referral and in the remainder, surgeons start antibiotics empirically. These broad-spectrum antibiotics cover the common pathogens involved, and there is no significant change in the antibiotic treatment after reviewing the culture reports following incision and drainage of uncomplicated superficial skin abscesses.