Saturday, April 01, 2023
Forefoot Surgery SURGERY

Incision and Drainage Foot Surgery- What To Expect is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Read full Disclosure here.

An incision and drainage procedure is done to treat abscesses in the foot.

An abscess is a pus pocket that has built up in the body tissues. Abscesses occur as a result of an infection. 

Diabetics and even non-diabetics can get abscesses in their feet. An abscess can occur from ulcerations (open sores) in the feet and even puncture wounds. 

The best way to treat a foot abscess is with an incision and drainage procedure. If the abscess is not evacuated with an incision and drainage surgery, it can spread to other parts of the body and become life-threatening. 

Incision and Drainage Foot Surgical Procedure- What to Expect

The incision and drainage procedure will be performed by your Podiatrist under anesthesia in the outpatient surgery center or the hospital. You will be sleeping during the entire surgery. 

If your foot infection is mild, you can go home the same day after the procedure. If your foot infection is severe, you may need to remain in the hospital for a few days after the surgery to ensure the infection has cleared.

The first thing your surgeon will do is make an incision over the abscess. The incision will be big enough to allow all of the pus to drain out. Once the pus has been drained completely, the wound will be flushed with a sterile saline solution infused with antibiotics. 

If your doctor suspects there’s a bone infection present, your doctor will obtain a bone biopsy to confirm this.

To read more about diabetic bone infections in detail, check out this supplemental post: Diabetic Foot Osteomyelitis (Bone Infection)- A Helpful Guide. 

A wound culture will also be obtained to identify the organism responsible for the infection. This will help your doctor decide which antibiotics would work best to clear your infection. 

The wound will be packed and left open in many cases, to allow for the bacterial infection to clear. The wound may be secondarily closed at a later date once the bacterial infection subsides. A dressing will then be applied to the foot. 

The surgery will take 1-2 hours to complete. 

wrapping infected foot

Incision and Drainage Recovery- What to Expect

After the procedure, you will be given instructions on how to care for your wound at home. It is important to keep your wound clean and dry. Use a cast protector from Amazon to help you keep your dressing dry. 

You will also need to keep an eye on your wound for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or discharge. 

If your incision was made on the bottom of your foot, you will need to stay off of your foot for 4-6 weeks minimum in a cast boot until sutures come out and your incision site heals. 

If the incision was made on the top of the foot, your doctor may allow you to bear weight as tolerated in a below-knee boot for 2-4 weeks. Sutures will be removed 2-3 weeks after surgery. If the wound was left open, diligent wound care will be needed at your doctor’s office to ensure the wound heals. 

Depending on the extent of the infection, recovery from an incision and drainage procedure can take 4 weeks or more. 

Incision and Drainage Foot Surgery Complications- What to Expect

One possible complication is that the abscess may return. If the abscess does return, it may need to be drained again. This can happen if the initial infection has not completely cleared up. It is important to follow the instructions given by your doctor to help prevent this from happening. 

Excessive bleeding is another complication that can occur after an incision and drainage procedure. If you are on blood thinners and the wound has been left open, excess bleeding may occur. Talk to your doctor if your post-operative bandage becomes soaked and the bleeding does not stop. 

A third complication that can occur after an incision and drainage procedure is nerve injury. Unfortunately, nerve damage can occur after an incision and drainage procedure. Nerve damage may be temporary or permanent. You may feel numbness, tingling, or burning after the procedure. 

When Should You Follow Up After Incision and Drainage?

Make sure you follow up with your physician within 1 week after the incision and drainage procedure. Your doctor will need to assess the surgical site to ensure it is healing properly. Your doctor will provide you with appropriate recommendations about wound care. 


Do You Give Antibiotics After Incision and Drainage?

If the infection is moderate to severe, your doctor will suggest you continue antibiotics after an incision and drainage procedure. This is especially true if there is a bone infection. 


Foot abscesses are fairly common infections that can cause significant pain and discomfort. If you think you may have a foot abscess, it is important to see a doctor so that they can determine whether or not you need incision and drainage surgery. Make sure you contact your local Podiatrist. 

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Related articles: 

A Simple Guide to Managing Diabetic Foot Ulcers

7 Reasons Why Diabetic Foot Ulcers Don’t Heal (With Solutions)


The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Vaishnavi Bawa
Dr. Vaishnavi Bawa is a Podiatrist who specializes in treating foot and ankle pathology. LifesLittleSteps mission is to educate the public about foot health in an easy-to-understand manner using evidence-based medicine.
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