Is Pilonidal Cyst Surgery Worth It?
You already know that a pilonidal cyst can cause miserable suffering. There's a chance that surgery could help, but would it be worth the recovery time? If you've heard cautionary tales from others who have had major pilonidal surgery, you might be more afraid of the post-surgery experience than your current pain.
Fortunately, not all pilonidal cyst procedures are created equal. With the right treatment, you can find relief that doesn't require a long, drawn-out recovery period. Afterward, you'll be able to say with confidence that the answer to the "Is pilonidal cyst surgery worth it?" question is "Yes!"
Why Pursue Pilonidal Cyst Surgery
A pilonidal cyst, also known as a pilonidal sinus, forms when a channel develops in the tissue near the cleft of the buttocks. It ends in a cavity that can be filled with hair, oil and debris. Although the channel and the cavity aren't normal, they're not a problem in and of themselves. There's no need to remove a pilonidal sinus that isn't giving you any trouble.
Unfortunately, the debris in the cyst can become infected. A pilonidal infection can quickly spell painful trouble. Infection causes the area to become inflamed, swollen and painful. The cavity fills with fluid, blood and pus. Antibiotics won't clear up the inflammation. Instead, the infection needs to drain.
That doesn't automatically mean that you must undergo major pilonidal surgery, however. The pilonidal sinus may drain on its own. If not, your doctor can perform a drainage procedure. Although this involves cutting open the abscess, it's a quick in-office procedure that can be done under local anesthesia.
If drainage can take care of the situation, why would you need to have pilonidal surgery? Surgical treatments are recommended for people who have recurrent pilonidal infections. A drainage procedure won't close up the sinus tract, so there's a good chance that you'll get another infection.
Continually dealing with the pain of an infection and then undergoing a drainage procedure isn't ideal. Therefore, your doctor will likely advise that you pursue a more long-lasting solution for repeated infections.
Recovery Times After Surgery
Even if you've had repeated infections, is pilonidal cyst surgery worth it? If it solves the trouble of your pilonidal sinus, then it's certainly worthwhile. And the easier your surgery and its recovery are, the more worth it the procedure will be.
In an excision process, most or all of the affected tissue is cut away from the body. This is a major procedure, and you can expect your recovery time to take at least several weeks.
Sometimes, the wound is sewn shut. When that procedure is used, it can take about four or more weeks for the wound to heal. You may need to take a break from your normal activities for at least the first two weeks.
You can view a pilonidal excision surgery in which the wound is stitched closed in the following video:
Other times, the wound is left open. This approach can reduce the chance of developing an infection, but it can also lead to longer healing times. It may be a few months after surgery before you start to feel back to normal.
In some studies, it has taken some respondents over 100 days for the incision site to close. At the extreme end, there have been cases reported in which it has taken over 200 to 500 days for the patient to heal.
Fortunately, you may not be locked into excision as your only option. In many cases, other surgical treatments can be promising alternatives. One of the top contenders is laser ablation. In this procedure, the sinus tract is cleaned out, and then laser energy is used to seal it shut.
With laser ablation, it can still take a while for the wound to fully heal, but you should be able to carry on with normal activity while you wait. Studies show that, on average, people resume normal activity within two to three days of this surgery.
Plus, with laser treatment, there aren't dressings that must be changed. Packing and unpacking the wound can be a source of great discomfort after a traditional excision. You may find the recovery period more tolerable when dressings aren't involved.
Lasting Effects of Surgery
Is pilonidal sinus surgery worth it in the long run? In other words, will surgery keep you from getting this condition again?
There are no absolute guarantees with pilonidal sinuses. In some cases, the infection can return, or a new site can develop. However, there's a good chance that you'll stay infection-free for a long time after your surgery. The best things you can do are to pick a procedure with a high success rate and to follow your doctor's aftercare instructions.
Studies have demonstrated a 7.2% recurrence rate for traditional excision procedures. Over the long-term, procedures that use an open-healing technique are much more successful than ones in which the wound is stitched shut. Unfortunately, those surgeries also require a longer, more involved recovery period.
The shorter recovery involved with laser treatment can be a promising alternative. Research demonstrates a 96.75% success rate for this procedure within the first year. In the same study, 97.84% percent of patients expressed satisfaction with their choice to have laser ablation performed for their pilonidal sinus.
Is pilonidal cyst surgery worth it? The nearly 98% of respondents who reported satisfaction with their laser procedure would tell you, "Yes, pilonidal surgery is worth it!"
If you're interested in learning more about how this procedure could benefit you, use Adler MicroMed's Find a Doctor feature to locate a colorectal specialist who uses the neoV Laser for pilonidal sinus treatment.
As with all medical issues, your physician is the ultimate source as to what procedure best fits your needs. Discuss all options and get a second opinion if you have any doubts. These articles are intended to be a source of general information only.