Introduction: Bartholin's cysts/abscess affects 2% of women. Conventional treatment is marsupialisation under general anaesthetic. We evaluated a conservative approach in a non-randomised prospective interventional study over 12 months.
Method: Women with a Bartholin's abscess were counselled and those who opted for the Word catheter (WC) had it inserted under local anaesthetic (follow up at one week and four weeks, when catheter was removed). Women recorded pain scores and completed a qualitative questionnaire and had telephone follow up at six months. Outcome measures were abscess resolution and acceptability of treatment.
Results: Fifty-eight women attended with a Bartholin's abscess requiring drainage. Twenty-three of 58 (40%) elected for marsupialisation. Thirty-five of 58 (60%) women had a WC inserted. Twenty-seven of 35 (77%) women retained their catheter for four weeks (three catheters fell out within 24 h of insertion, three catheters fell out within one week, one fell out after 11 days and there was one failed insertion). One woman had a recurrence six months after treatment. Abscess resolution occurred in 34 of 35 (97%). No woman reported significant discomfort at one week. Twenty-four of 27 women (89%) said that if they suffered a recurrence, they would have another WC inserted. Three of 27 (11%) women had intercourse within the second week of catheter insertion and reported that it was not uncomfortable. Fourteen women who had marsupialisation were traced and none had suffered a recurrence six months after treatment.
Conclusions: The WC is a safe and effective treatment for a Bartholin's abscess. It may be considered as an alternative to marsupialisation.