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Pediatric General & Thoracic Surgery

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Perianal Abscess

What is a perianal abscess?

A perianal abscess is a collection of pus outside the anus. It can appear as a red, swollen, tender area on a child and can be painful. The child may be irritable or hold bowel movements . It may look like a pimple that is forming.

What causes a perianal abscess?

In most cases, a perianal abscess is caused by a connection ( or fistula) from inside the rectum. In infants, this is usually present at birth but may not show up for a few months.

How is a perianal abscess treated?

Incision and drainage of the abscess can often be done in the office and provides pain relief for the child. The abscess is opened with a surgical instrument after the child is given a local anesthetic. The pus is drained to relieve the pressure that the child feels. The abscess is then left open to drain and can be covered by a piece of gauze. If the child is in diapers, it is recommended that these be changed as soon as he/she wets them and thorough cleansing with plain water be done. Some parents use an antibiotic ointment with each diaper change and this is permitted, but not necessary. Some children may be comforted by warm baths to soak the area and increase drainage. The abscess will close by itself within a few days. Some abscesses recur and may need surgical treatment. If the fistula does not close, it may lead to recurring problems. In the operating room the fistula is opened. The wound is treated the same as an abscess and closes in a week or two. The infant should have no long-term problems from this. Please feel free to ask any member of the pediatric surgery team if you have further questions.

This information, although based on a thorough knowledge and careful review of current medical literature, is the opinion of doctors at The University of Texas Medical School and is presented to inform you about surgical conditions. It is not meant to contradict any information you may receive from your personal physician and should not be used to make decisions about surgical treatment. If you have any questions about the information above or your child's care, please contact our doctors.