Dr. Reinhorn’s practice philosophy

Pilonidal disease is complicated. Since I started performing the Cleft Lift (Bascom Flap) procedure in 2007, I have seen hundreds of patients with this problem. I understand how uncomfortable most patients are, and tailor my treatment to the individual patients. While some patients do not require surgery, many do. During the initial consultation I like to discuss the role of medical and surgical management with my patients, and come up with a plan for care. Below are questions I often hear.

What is a pilonidal disease?

Pilonidal disease occurs in the natal cleft as a result of midline openings or pits. Hair and bacteria can get inside the pits, and lead to infections, cysts and fistula tracts. This can become a chronic problem. Some patients have a cyst only, some have a cyst and sinus tract, others can develop an abscess which can lead to a lot of pain and drainage.

What are symptoms of pilonidal disease?

Usually patients present with bloody drainage on their underwear. This can be painful at times, but is often just a nuisance. Some patients, however, present with quite a bit of pain and sometimes with a fever. This is a sign of an abscess, which needs to be taken care of by a physician.

How is pilonidal disease treated?

There are both surgical and nonsurgical options for treating pilonidal disease. Patients with a lot of symptoms that are resistant to conservative treatment will require surgery. In the past, surgery involved removing the infected area and either leaving the hole open or closing the incision. More recently, the cleft lift procedure for pilonidal disease was developed by Dr. John Bascom, and is now considered the gold standard of treatment. Dr. Reinhorn is currently the only surgeon to perform this surgery on adult patient in New England.

Please see Cleft Lift Procedure for more information on the surgery.

Are there any nonsurgical treatment options for pilonidal disease?

In recent years, several researchers have described using a laser to remove the hair in the area. This procedure allows the body to heal surgical incisions, without hair as a foreign body that can get into the wound. Lasers are believed to stimulate healing as well. Laser treatment is still considered experimental, and I am currently conducting my own research on this. For now, I generally recommend laser for patients who have already had surgery and are back with recurrent disease or a have difficult-to-heal wound.

Are there things I can do at home to help myself if I have symptoms of pilonidal disease?

Generally I recommend people shave the area around the cleft with a clipper once per week if they are not undergoing laser therapy. I highly recommend all pilonidal patients wash with Hibiclens® antimicrobial soap daily during the time they have a pilonidal cyst or sinus and for a year after they have been medically “cured.”

How do I know if I need surgery?

This is a decision to make with your physician. Not every patient who has pilonidal disease needs surgery. Some people may outgrow their disease, or may have such infrequent episodes that they choose not to have surgery. Generally, people who have frequent episodes of infection or abscess benefit from surgery to improve their quality of life.

What can I do to prepare for pilonidal surgery?

If you have an active infection with drainage, typically I will treat you with an antibiotic before and after surgery. This will allow for your body to be in the best shape possible before the surgery as well as continue to fight the infection after surgery.

How many follow-up appointments will I need after pilonidal surgery?

Typically, I see patients 3-5 days after surgery to remove the drain and two weeks after surgery to remove the ends of a dissolvable stitch. After that I see most patients at 1 month, 3 months, 6 months and 12 months after surgery. Patients that have a wound issue may need to be seen more frequently.

Please see What to Expect From Surgery for more information on the day of surgery and the following few weeks.

Where can I get more information about pilonidal disease and surgery?

Pilonidal.org offers general information, a forum to ask your questions, and an updated list of surgeons who perform the cleft lift procedure in every state. Click here to get to pilonidal.org.

The above information is provided for educational purposes only. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional evaluation by an experienced surgeon.

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