Pilot Study to Evaluate the Adjunct Use of a Povidone-Iodine Topical Antiseptic in Patients with Soft Tissue Abscesses

Adriana Segura Olson, Lauren Rosenblatt, Nicholas Salerno, Julie Odette, Ronnie Ren, Tatiana Emanuel, Joel E Michalek, Qianqian Liu, Liem Du, Kourosh Jahangir, Gillian R. Schmitz

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Background: Povidone-iodine (PVP-I) antiseptic solutions have been shown to be effective against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcal aureus, a common cause of superficial skin abscesses. Objectives: Our objective was to study the feasibility of using PVP-I as a treatment adjunct in patients with superficial skin abscesses and determine if it confers any benefit over incision and drainage (I&D) alone. Methods: This was a randomized controlled pilot study of adult patients with an uncomplicated skin abscess. Patients were randomized to PVP-I or standard treatment. All patients had I&D and abscess packing. Patients randomized to PVP-I were instructed on daily application of the agent to hands, wound, and surrounding skin with dressing changes. Subjects returned at 48–72 h and 7–10 days and followed-up by phone at 30 days. The primary outcome was clinical cure 7–10 days after I&D. The secondary outcomes were rate of development of new skin lesions and spread in household contacts within 30 days. Results: Clinical cure occurred in 91.3% of patients in the standard group vs. 88.2% of patients in the PVP-I group (difference, 3.1%; 95% confidence interval [CI] −10.7 to 16.8; p = 0.53). There was a significantly higher adverse event rate in the group who received PVP-I (59.6%) vs. standard care (26.5%) (difference 33.1%, 95% CI 13.2–50.2; p < 0.001). Conclusions: There was no difference in clinical cure rates among patients using PVP-I (88.2%) vs. standard care (91.3%) after I&D. There were no major adverse events, but the addition of PVP-I was commonly associated with local skin irritation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Emergency Medicine
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019



  • abscess
  • antiseptic
  • iodine
  • povidone
  • wound care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine

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