Bartholins Abscess

Bartholins Abcess’ is an infection in one of the two Bartholin’s glands. They are just inside the labia and form lubrication. Bartholins Abcess’ can occur in about 2% of women, and they are usually on one side. Most commonly abcesses like this occur in women in their 20’s.

Some abcesses can be treated with antibiotics; but if symptoms persist and an abscess becomes large and painful, alternative treatment is needed. The types of treatment are:

  • Conservative Management – antibiotics and await to see if the abcess improves
  • Surgery
  • Insertion of a catheter

Conservative Management
If an abscess does not improve on antibiotics, pain and swelling increases and without surgery infection will occur.

Surgery
Surgery involves a general anaesthetic and being asleep for about 20 minutes. Surgery is the most common treatment, and the one that we use at this hospital. It is usually performed as a day case
While you are asleep, the doctors will cut and drain the abscess. They will also stitch the cyst wall in a way that leaves an opening, so that the wound can drain and heal properly (this is called marsupialisation). The stitches will usually be dissolvable. Occasionally you will have a small bundle of gauze inside the wound, to prevent any bleeding; this is removed after a few hours, but at times an overnight stay may be required.
When you return to the ward, you will have small plastic tube in the back of your hand. This is called a venflon. This will stay in place until you are well enough to go home.

Catheter
An alternative to surgery that is well documented is use of a catheter insertion. This involves placing a small tube into the abcess site, and inflating a balloon, The abcess is drained and the balloon sits in place to allow the wound to heal from the base to the skin. Currently this is not used at Southmead Hospital Bristol. Recovery time is longer, with a catheter in place.