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Synonyms and Keywords: Skin abscess
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Cutaneous abscess is defined as a collection of pus in the dermis or subcutaneous tissue and appears as a swollen, red, tender, and fluctuant mass, often with surrounding cellulitis and may occur in any part of the body. Although, there is a rare type of sterile skin abscess that is secondary to injection mostly in diabetic patients who use insulin. diagnosis is clinical and consist of a painful, tender, indurated, and usually erythematous nodule or mass that is varying in size. Systemic sign and symptoms are rare except for sever and multiple abscess especially in immunocompromised patients. Treatment is, incision and drainage associated with antibiotics.
Cutaneous abscess may be classified as sterile abscess and infectious abscess.
- Sterile abscesses are mainly seen in diabetic patients secondary to insulin injection.
- Infectious abscesses which are mostly due to staphylococcus aureus infection.
Abscess is usually caused by staphylococcus aureus bacterial infection in an injured skin. Staphylococcus aureus could form abscess by secretion of several enzymes and toxins. In a reaction to these bacterial substances, assembled white blood cells in this tissue produces anti-bacterial anti-bodies that help in bacterial elimination. However, these cells cause damage to the soft tissue contributing in the abscess formation.
Skin serves as a barrier from pathogen entry. Breech in the skin surface allow the pathogen entry to cause local inflammation. Polymorphonuclear cells (PMNs) are the first and the most important responding cells in abscess formation. Neutrophils, are responsible for phagocytosis. Once the pathogen is opsonized by complement system, it will be recognized by neutrophils and the phagocytosis process will begin. After phagocytosis the bactricidal process will begin by producing superoxide radicals and other reactive oxygen species (ROS).
PMNs are the most important cellular defense. Genetic disorders that negatively affect PMN function may predispose persons to recurrent cutaneous abscess formation. For example, chronic granulomatous disease, which is a genetic disorder characterized by the inability of PMNs and other phagocytes to produce superoxide, often presents with severe and recurrent S. aureus infections.
- S. aureus (either methicillin-susceptible or methicillin-resistant S. aureus) is counting for 75% of cases.
- Mixed flora (including S. aureus together with S. pyogenes and gram-negative bacilli with anaerobes)
- Anaerobes, mostly seen in injecting drug users.
Less common causes
Differentiating cutaneous abscess from other Diseases
- Cutaneous abscess must be differentiated from other causes of lower limb edema like chronic venous insufficiency, acute deep venous thrombosis, lipedema, myxedema, lymphatic filariasis and causes of generalized edema.
|Diseases||Symptoms||Signs||Gold standard Investigation to diagnose|
|History||Onset||Pain||Fever||Laterality||Scrotal swelling||Symptoms of primary disease|
Preparing blood smears
By the ultrasound, the following findings can be observed:
|Chronic venous insufficiency||Chronic||+||-||Bilateral||+
|Acute deep venous thrombosis||Acute||+||-||Unilateral||-||May be associated with primary disease mandates recumbency for long duration|
|Other causes of generalized edema||
|Folliculitis||Hair follicle inflammation, presents as pruritic rash or pustule.|
|Suppurative hydradenitis||Inflammation in intertriginous areas (axillae, inguinal area, inner thighs, perianal and perineal areas, mammary,..)|
|Epidermoid cyst||Cyst or nodule presents with central punctum. May be secondarily infected.|
|Nodular lymphangitis||Subcutaneous swelling along with lymphatics. mostly due to Sporothrix schenckii.|
|Myiasis||Enlarging nodule secondary to insect bite and due to penetration of fly larvae into subdermal tissue. caused by Dermatobia hominis, the botfly and Cordylobia anthropophaga, the tumbu fly.|
Epidemiology and Demographics
- It is estimated that 4% of children experience the cutaneous abscess.
A national emergency department visit survey from 1996 to 2005 showed:
- Emergency department visits for abscesses more than doubled over the 10-year study period (1.2 million in 1996 to 3.28 million in 2005).
Men and women are affected equally.
It is more common among adults age 19 to 45 years.
- Skin barrier disruption due to trauma (such as abrasion, penetrating wound, pressure ulcer, venous leg ulcer, insect bite, injection drug use)
- Skin inflammation (such as eczema, radiation therapy)
- Edema due to impaired lymphatic drainage
- Edema due to venous insufficiency
- Immunosuppression (such as diabetes or HIV infection)
- Breaks in the skin between the toes (toe web intertrigo); these may be clinically inapparent
- Preexisting skin infection (such as tinea pedis, impetigo, varicella)
Natural History, Complications and Prognosis
Recurrence may occur in 20% of patients.
Depending on the extent of the disease, the prognosis may vary. However, the prognosis is generally regarded as good.
Patients who require hospitalization for ICU admission, operating room surgical intervention, or death have one of the following six risk factors upon presentation:
- abnormal cross-sectional imaging result ("air or gas, abscess or fluid collection, osteomyelitis, or suspicion of osteomyelitis")
- systemic inflammatory response syndrome
- previous infection at the same location
- infection involving the hand * diabetes* age >65 years
History and symptoms
A detailed history must be taken from all patients. Specific area of focus when obtaining a history from the patient include:
- Recent trauma
- Recent weight change
- Recent immunosuppresive drugs
- Underlying comorbidities (lymphedema, malignancy, neutropenia, immunodeficiency, splenectomy, diabetes)
Appearance of the Patient
Patients are usually well appearing.
Vital signs are within normal limits unless there is complication.
Patients who require hospitalization for ICU admission, operating room surgical intervention, or death have one of the following six risk factors upon presentation:* abnormal cross-sectional imaging result* systemic inflammatory response syndrome* previous infection at the same location* infection involving the hand * diabetes* age >65 years
- Single abscess ≥2 cm
- Multiple lesions
- Extensive surrounding cellulitis
- Associated immunosuppression or other comorbidities
- Systemic signs of toxicity (fever >100.5°F/38°C, hypotension, or sustained tachycardia)
- Inadequate clinical response to incision and drainage alone
- Presence of an indwelling medical device (such as prosthetic joint, vascular graft, or pacemaker)
- High risk for transmission of S. aureus to others (such as in athletes, military personnel)
- Preferred regimen: Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole one or two double strength doses (160 mg of trimethoprim and 800 mg of sulfamethoxazole) PO twice daily
- Alternative regimen (1): Clindamycin 300-450 mg PO three to four times daily
- Alternative regimen (2): Doxycycline 100 mg PO twice daily
- Alternative regimen (3): Minocycline 200 mg PO once, then 100 mg PO twice daily
- Alternative regimen (4): Linezolid 600 mg PO twice daily
- Alternative regimen (5): Tedizolid 200 mg PO once daily
Incision and drainage is the preferred method of treatment for cutaneous abscesses.
The following video, shows this procedure.
Avoid sharing personal hygiene items (razors, towels and brushes).
Decolonization of the index patient and of household contacts may be considered for patients with recurrent infections by using:
- Apply 2% mupirocin ointment in nasal flares by using sterile applicators twice a day for 5 days.
- Topical mupirocin applied to the nares. In this randomized controlled trial, patients used nasal mupirocin twice daily 5 days a month for 1 year. The does is about 1 centimeter of ointment on a swab applied to each nares.
- Apply 4% Chlorhexidine gluconate solution for all body parts except for face, mucus membranes and open wounds followed by rinsing daily for 5 days.
- Chlorhexidine baths, in a randomized controlled trial, nasal recolonization with S. aureus occurred at 12 weeks in 24% of nursing home residents receiving mupirocin ointment alone (6/25) and in 15% of residents receiving mupirocin ointment plus chlorhexidine baths daily for the first three days of mupirocin treatment (4/27). Although these results did not reach statistical significance, the baths are easy to do.
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