This page will give you information about surgery for a pilonidal sinus. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.
What is a pilonidal sinus?
A pilonidal sinus is a problem in your natal cleft (the area between your buttocks) that can cause infection.
Hairs can grow in your natal cleft, or loose hairs can fall and collect in your natal cleft.
Hairs carry bacteria, which can cause inflammation and infection.
An abscess (a collection of pus) can form or the pus can drain through a tunnel (sinus) out to your skin.
What are the benefits of surgery?
Surgery is the most dependable way to remove the pilonidal sinus and pockets of infection.
Are there any alternatives to surgery?
Washing your natal cleft every day to prevent hairs building up and removing hair from the area by waxing or using a hair removal cream may help to prevent an infection.
An occasional discharge can be treated with antibiotics.
It is sometimes possible to have a procedure under a local anaesthetic to drain an abscess, or to brush the sinuses and fill them with glue or phenol, and also to remove the pits.
What does the operation involve?
The operation is performed under a general anaesthetic and usually takes about 30 minutes.
Your surgeon will remove the sinus and infected tissue, sometimes over a large area.
What complications can happen?
Some complications can be serious and can even cause death.
General complications of any operation
- unsightly scarring of your skin
- blood clot in your leg
- blood clot in your lung
Specific complications of this operation
- partial breakdown of your wound
- slow healing
- numbness around your wound
How soon will I recover?
You should be able to go home the same day.
You should be able to return to work after 2 to 3 weeks.
Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.
The pilonidal sinus can come back. It is important to keep the area free from hairs and as clean as possible to reduce this risk.
Pilonidal sinus is a common problem in young adults and is best treated by surgery. It can cause an abscess or continued discharge.
The operation and treatment information on this page is published under license by Healthdirect Australia from EIDO Healthcare Australia and is protected by copyright laws. Other than for your personal, non-commercial use, you may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information. The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.
For more on how this information was prepared, click here.
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: September 2019