American College of Emergency Physicians

View all recommendations from this society

October 14, 2013

Avoid antibiotics and wound cultures in emergency department patients with uncomplicated skin and soft tissue abscesses after successful incision and drainage and with adequate medical follow-up.

Skin and soft tissue infections are a frequent reason for visiting an emergency department. Some infections, called abscesses, become walled off and form pus under the skin. Opening and draining an abscess is the appropriate treatment; antibiotics offer no benefit. Even in abscesses caused by Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), appropriately selected antibiotics offer no benefit if the abscess has been adequately drained and the patient has a well-functioning immune system. Additionally, culture of the drainage is not needed as the result will not routinely change treatment.


These items are provided solely for informational purposes and are not intended as a substitute for consultation with a medical professional. Patients with any specific questions about the items on this list or their individual situation should consult their physician.

How The List Was Created

1–5: The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) developed five Choosing Wisely® recommendations through a multi-step process that included input from ACEP members, an expert panel of emergency physicians and the ACEP Board of Directors. In 2012, ACEP appointed a task force to address cost effective emergency care. The Cost Effective Care Task Force conducted a survey that was open to all ACEP members asking for strategies to reduce cost and improve value in emergency medicine. The task force received over 200 individual suggestions, which were grouped into a set of strategies. A technical expert panel, including representatives from all aspects of emergency medicine practice, reviewed and prioritized the recommendations using a modified Delphi technique. The panel prioritized the strategies using multiple rounds of voting based on contribution to cost reduction, benefit to patients and actionability by emergency physicians. A literature review including data on cost was assembled for the highest-rated strategies. Strategies were further refined and a final list of strategies that received majority support of the panelists was created. Five of these were ultimately selected by the Board of Directors to be included in Choosing Wisely®.

6–10: The entire ACEP membership (30,000+) was surveyed and given an opportunity to provide input on what in their view would be cost effective and improve the quality of patient care. A Delphi panel of emergency physicians was convened and the list was winnowed using the Delphi process to the top twelve. To be included in the top twelve, there must be research to demonstrate cost effectiveness and improvement of patient care if implemented with reason, caution and explanation to the patient. Also of importance was the consideration that the recommendations would be or are also in concert with some of the other specialties participating in the Choosing Wisely® campaign.

ACEP’s disclosure and conflict of interest policy can be found at www.acep.org.

Sources

Baumann BM, Russo CJ, Pavlik D, Cassidy-Smith T, Brown N, Sacchetti A, Capano-Wehrle LM, Mistry RD. Management of pediatric skin abscesses in pediatric, general academic and community emergency departments. West J Emerg Med. 2011May;12(2):159–67.

Duong M, Markwell S, Peter J, Barenkamp S. Randomized, controlled trial of antibiotics in the management of community-acquired skin abscesses in the pediatric patient. Ann Emerg Med. 2010 May;55(5):401–7.

Llera JL, Levy RC. Treatment of cutaneous abscess: a double-blind clinical study. Ann Emerg Med. 1985;14:15–9.

Niska R, Bhuiya F, Xu J. National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 2007 Emergency Department Summary. National health statistics reports. Hyattsville, [MD]: National Center for Health Statistics. 2010. 31 p. Report no.: 26.