Pilonidal Sinus - Operations
The big comparison
The Pilonidal Sinus is a harmless disease. Many problems arise only as a result of extensive operations and failure to provide follow-up treatment. Numerous surgical procedures and medical opinions cause confusion. Our overview of the various surgical techniques provides you with all the facts you need to make a good decision.
Pilonidal Sinus Operations
Defusing the acute inflammation
A small incision under local anesthesia or a puncture provides relief. Pain and inflammation are reduced. In mild cases the administration of antibiotics may be sufficient. We then operate on the fistula according to the guidelines under optimal conditions about two weeks later.
Find the best surgical method...
... while achieving these 3 important goals:
- Elimination of the chronic inflammation: Pit picking according to Lord and Bascom selectively removes ingrown hair roots and hair in the fistula tract. The FiLaC technique removes the internal fistula tissue with a laser probe. Fistulectomy or sinusectomy completely removes the fistula tube. In the conventional Pilonidal Sinus surgery, the fistula is cut out in a block with subcutaneous fatty tissue.
- Closure of the wound(s): With pit picking and variants, the wounds are small and heal by themselves. In conventional surgery, either the wound is left open(open wound treatment) or closed by suturing, if necessary with displacement of adjacent tissue(plastic reconstruction).
- Prevention of relapse (recurrence): Not only the type of operation is responsible for the rate of relapse. The importance of wound treatment after the operation and recurrence prevention by laser hair removal is often underestimated. In addition, giving up smoking and the design of a workplace with the possibility of temporary work while standinghelps.
Type of anaesthetic*
20 - 30 min
30 - 120 min
40 - 90 min
40 - 90 min
0 - 2 weeks
0 - 2 weeks
2 - 3 weeks
1 - 12 months
* SPA = spinal anaesthesia, spinal cord anaesthesia, ITN = intubation anaesthesia, general anaesthesia, LA = local anaesthesia, local anaesthetic.
Table: Overview of the most common surgical techniques for Pilonidal Sinus
This assessment is based on my personal experience with the patients presented in our practice. It is subject to a selection effect and a certain subjectivity. Conventionally operated patients will only seek a second opinion if there are problems in the course of wound healing or if a relapse occurs, and are thus disproportionately represented in our collective.
My rating of the surgical techniques ranges from 0 stars (not recommended) to 5 stars (method of first choice). We have highlighted the techniques that we recommend in our opinion in green, conditionally suitable ones in yellow, and less recommendable ones in red.
Pit Picking and further developments
The "simple" method according to Lord and Bascom: Pit-picking - A Simple Treatment
In 1965, the British Journal of Surgery published a two-page publication by the surgeon Peter Lord about a new, "simple treatment" of the Pilonidal Sinus.
On our page about the formation of onePilonidal Sinus, we have explained how small, inconspicuous openings allow hair and bacteria to penetrate and thus cause chronic inflammation. Peter Lord called these openings "pits".
He concluded that the complete removal of pits and impaled hair was crucial for healing. He called the economical excision of pits "pit picking", and recommended a round brush for cleaning the fistula canal. In addition, Lord recognized the importance of hair removal for healing success, which he achieved by electro-epilation or shaving.
Initially, this "Lord-Millar-Procedure" received little attention. Only John Bascom (Oregon, U.S.A.) ensured the worldwide dissemination of this advanced technique, which he called "follicle removal". With great commitment he supported surgeons worldwide in learning this technique.
We have been successfully using the pit picking technique since 2004. With the experience of over 3500 operations we have continuously improved the technique. Expertise and technological progress (magnifying glasses, 4MHz radiofrequency surgery, laser surgery and fine instruments from plastic surgery, ENT and maxillofacial surgery) allow us today to treat every patient Pilonidal Sinus minimally invasive. You also benefit from this therapeutic principle in the event of a relapse after a (conventional) operation.
Your advantages with this treatment concept:
- Examination, consultation and operation - all in one day
- Treatment under local anesthesia, no general anesthesia
- Treatment in the practice, no hospital stay
- Substantially smaller wounds
- Fast work and sport ability
- preservation of the normal body contour, inconspicuous scars
Pit Picking "Classic": LORD - BASCOM - OP
According to the original description by Lord and Bascom, only the pits are cut out during this procedure as skin cylinders "the size of a grain of rice". We use biopsy punches of 2 - 6 mm for this. The trapped hairs are pulled out with a fine clamp, the fistula tract is scraped out leaving the fistula capsule in place. Some surgeons additionally make a 1 - 2 cm long longitudinal incision at the side for the drainage of secretions, the relief incision.
The theory is that with the removal of the foreign body the inflammatory stimulus is eliminated and the fistula can heal. The wounds and the fistula tract close up over time without any further action by scar tissue.
Pit Picking "classic" - When do we use this method?
- in the case of coccyx fistulas that are not pre-operated and have only little scarring
- among young people
- smallest possible intervention
- short treatment duration 10 - 30 min
- short healing time 1 - 2 weeks
- Healing rate up to 70%
- all other techniques remain possible
- not practicable for severely scarred fistulas
- Cleaning of hair often incomplete
- Hardened fistula cord remains
- Recurrence rate up to 30
- Fistula tract often noticeable despite healing of the openings
I started with this surgical technique in 2004 for simple, not too extensive coccyx fistulas. The experience was so positive that soon more and more patients asked for the pit-picking technique. At that time I was still of the opinion that in the case of a relapse after pit-picking, a major operation would then be unavoidable. At that time we performed Karydakis plastic surgery for recurrence. However, there was a frequent request to try pit-picking again.
Pit Picking + Laser (FiLaC/SiLaC): WILHELM Laser OP
Laser surgery (SiLaC - Sinus Laser Ablation of the Cyst)
In selected cases, renewed pit-picking was successful in the event of recurrence. Nevertheless, the success rate of the pit-picking operation of a maximum of 70% was not completely convincing. In 2011 Wilhelm and 2013 Giamundo presented the FiLaC laser technology for the treatment of anal fistulas.
The idea was obvious to use the laser probe also for thosePilonidal Sinus . And indeed, the success rate could be increased to over 80%.
The laser treatment is to be seen as an additional measure to pit picking. Removal of the pits and cleaning of the fistula tract are performed identically. The laser probe is then pulled through the fistula canal several times while releasing energy, so that the inner layer of the fistula capsule is burned out and the capsule shrinks.
FiLaC / SiLaC - when do we use the method?
- generally rare
- for long fistula tracts
- for numerous fistula openings
- if the patient prefers the fastest possible convalescence ("downtime")
- for symptom relief in difficult to cure multiple relapses and acne inversa
- All the advantages of pit-picking
- Improved healing rate up to 80
- Rapid regression of bleeding and secretion
- increased swelling in the first days after surgery
- Self-payer service
- Fistula tract often noticeable despite healing of the openings
Pit picking + sinusectomy: Our preferred technique
"Pit Picking 2.0" Minimally invasive "tubular" excision of the fistula tract
What can be improved in Pit Picking and FiLaC?
The aim is to guarantee the complete removal of the trapped hair.
It has long been known that hair is not always found in the hollow space of a Pilonidal Sinus .
In this constellation, also known as "empty nest" - empty (hair) nest, microscopic examination often reveals hairs integrated into the wall of the fistula capsule - a possible cause of recurrence after pit picking.
In addition, the mechanical irritation caused by the cartilage-like hardened fistula capsule leads to complaints. With the removal of the fistula capsule, sitting on hard surfaces becomes comfortable again.
Evolution of the surgical technique
Is there a middle ground between "brushing out" the gear during pit-picking and complete cutting out?
The first thought was a skin incision in the course of the fistula with a final skin suture. This works very well with lateral or oblique fistulas. If the fistula runs exactly in the middle, the problem of suturing in an unfavourable position is again present.
With increasing experience the necessary cut became shorter and shorter. Tubular fistullectomy (tubular fistula excision), also known as sinusectomy, solves the problems mentioned above.
Magnifying glasses, tumescent anesthesia and the 470 nm laser offer the highest precision and freedom from pain. Sinusectomy is therefore the standard method in my practice.
- Complete fistula removal without large wound
- Cure rate up to over 90
- Removal or at least reduction of painful hardenings
- Also applicable in case of recurrence
- Outpatient surgery possible
- Brief incapacity to work
- No physical protection necessary
- Cost absorption by all health insurance companies
- Only a few doctors in Europe have sufficient experience
- Longer surgery Duration 30 - 120 min
- Inner wound cavity corresponds to the volume of the removed fistula
- Initially secretion of wound fluid
- Initially pain under stress
Endoscopic pilonidal sinus therapy: EPSiT
Keyhole surgery for difficult cases
A challenge in all minimally invasive procedures is the difficult view through small openings into a narrow fistula cavity. We routinely use magnifying glasses with 2.5x magnification and built-in, powerful illumination for this purpose.
In abdominal surgery and trauma surgery, endoscopic surgery via rod optics has long been standard practice. We have invested in this technology. If it makes sense, we use a 2.7 mm thin optic with a high-resolution camera from the Stryker company, such as is also used for joint endoscopy (arthroscopy). In this way, the fistula tissue can be vaporized with laser under video-assisted vision (laser ablation), bleeding can be stopped and the completeness of a fistula removal can be checked.
Meinero et al. use the anal fistula instruments of Storz (VAAFT) and have coined the term "Endoscopic Pilonidal Sinus Therapy - EPSIT" for this procedure. Milon uses a hysteroscope (camera to reflect the uterus) and bipolar current to remove fistula tissue.
... contribution in progress
Radical excision ("butcher method"): The conventional operation
Large-area removal with open wound treatment
Based on the assumption of a congenital malformation, a radical (lat. radix = root) excision of the fistula-bearing tissue has been demanded since the beginning of the 20th century. In order to avoid recurrences, a "safety margin" of healthy tissue was also removed. Thus, no relapses (recurrences) could have occurred with complete removal.
But there were relapses nevertheless!
Thus the theory of a disease existing from birth had to be questioned. The obvious consequence of reconsidering the surgical procedure was not drawn.
Instead, new justifications for the radical operation were found. The resulting extensive scar was supposed to protect against the re-growth of hair by keeping the hair free.
And then? How can a wound closure be achieved?
Basically, there are 3 possibilities: open wound treatment, the hardly used hemming of the wound edges to flatten the wound (marsupialisation) and the closure of the wound by suture.
Open wound treatment
What is meant by this is not rare: We'll see. The 5-10 cm long and 3 - 5 cm wide wound should fill with scar tissue. To avoid premature closure, the wound cavity is stuffed with a tamponade.
There are two ways of wound healing: Primary wound healing occurs when the edges of the wound are in close contact, e.g. in a sutured wound. First, it sticks together with fibrin, a protein from coagulation factors in the blood. The scar gains firmness in the second step when connective tissue cells multiply and form stable collagen fibres.
After the radical excision only secondary wound healing is possible. First the wound cleans itself. Then it fills with granulation tissue. When the skin level is reached, new skin grows over the scar in a final step.
In case of secondary wound healing, physical protection is of no use. Wound infections are rare. In the coccyx region, regrowing hair and loose hair from other parts of the body as well as textile particles from clothing are the most frequent disturbing factors. We have already found hair from other family members and pets in non-healing wounds at Pilonidal Sinus .
Simple seam in the centre line
It would be an obvious idea to close the wound simply by suturing, especially for small wounds.
Unfortunately, the simple suture in the midline only heals without problems in some cases.
Regrowing and loose hairs penetrate the sutured wound, the stitches hinder the necessary shaving.
Moisture and bacterial colonisation favour wound infections. The suture bursts open again or must be opened prematurely.
Shear forces and constant movement cause the seams to become loose.
The current guideline therefore advises against a seam in the centre line. In well-founded individual cases, such a suture can nevertheless help to shorten the healing time. Prerequisites are from my experience
- (largely) inflammation-free conditions during the operation
- Treatment with laser epilation on OP day
- Close inspections with meticulous removal of hair in the wound area
- early thread pull around the 10th day after the operation
Operation procedure Radical surgery ("Excision in toto")
- Most often the operation is performed under general anesthesia or spinal cord anesthesia (spinal anesthesia) as an in-patient in the hospital.
- The sleeping patient is first turned into the prone position. The skin is disinfected and the surrounding area sterilely covered.
- Most surgeons first inject a blue dye to be able to recognize the dimension of the fistula by the blue coloration.
- Using a scalpel or electric knife, a spindle-shaped ("whetstone") block of tissue is cut out "safely in the healthy" down to the periosteum (fascia).
- The wound remains open. Tamponade (stuffing of the wound) is often carried out with sterile compresses or iodoform-soaked textile strips.
- These tamponades are changed regularly. Patients are usually instructed to wash out the wound regularly.
Typical formulations of the operation protocol can be found e.g. on OP-Bericht.de.
Radical surgery - when do we use the method?
- at typical Pilonidal Sinus: Never
- inversa acne: when conservative therapy and minimally invasive surgery have not been successful
- Simple surgical technique
- available nationwide
- complete fistula removal easy to achieve
- major wound
- protracted healing
- unfavourable scars
- high rate of failure to heal
- high recurrence rate
Lateral wound closure: KARYDAKIS - OP
This technique goes back to the Greek military surgeon George E. Karydakis back. He recognized the problem of difficult healing and high recurrence rate. With his 1974 published technique of a laterally (laterally) displaced incision and reconstruction of the wound in 1974, he significantly improved the results of Pilonidal Sinus surgery.
Operation procedure Karydakis OP
- General or spinal anaesthesia (spinal anaesthesia)
- Inpatient treatment and abdominal positioning
- The cut-out is made offset to the side. The length of the cut is at least 5 cm.
- Closure by suture is achieved on the side "lateralised", "off-midline" - at least 2 cm to the side of the midline - and with flattening of the gluteal fold.
- A suction drainage (Redon) can be inserted.
- 3 weeks are indicated for protection and relief.
- If the course is uncomplicated, healing is then achieved. The flattening of the gluteal fold should prevent relapses.
- You can change the course of the operation, for example, to www.webop.de understand.
Karydaki's surgery - when do we use the method?
- for typical, not pre-operated Pilonidal Sinus: Rare
- for acne inversa: very rare
- in case of recurrence after radical surgery, if minimally invasive surgery has not been successful
- Even large defects can be closed
- Very good recovery rates: Karydakis itself indicates a recurrence rate of 1%, a complication rate of 8.5% and a follow-up rate of 95% for 6545 patients operated on in 24 years!
- Low recurrence rate (0 - 6 %) due to lateral scar and flattening of a deep gluteal fold
- Technically demanding operation, experienced surgeon required
- Even with optimal OP technique 8 - 23 % haematomas (bruises) and wound healing disorders
- Seroma formation possible (fluid accumulation under the scar)
- Visible scar
- Changed body contour
Closure by rotational flaps: LIMBERG - OP
This technique goes back to the Russian oral surgeon Alexander A. Limberg who published a technique for closing a diamond (rhombus) shaped defect in Russian in 1948 and in English in 1966. In 1984 this technique was published by A.S. G. Azab first used in Egypt to close a coccyx fistula wound. The description of the Limberg operation below follows this publication.
Besides the Karydakis operation, among the procedures with plastic wound closure, Limberg plastic surgery is the most frequently used. Excellent results are reported. Unfortunately, we often see patients in our consultation hours who have had complicated recurrences despite (or perhaps because of?) an extremely extensive operation.
Before: Planning of the lobes - plastic to Limberg with rhomboid cut
After: Course of the skin suture at Limberg Plastik (the suture lies in the midline!)
Operation Limberg OP
- General or spinal anaesthesia (spinal anaesthesia), in-patient treatment and abdominal positioning
- Cut-out and rotational lobes are rhombus-shaped (i.e. all sides have the same length, unlike the "rhomboid")
- The respective opposite internal angles are 60° and 120°.
- The rue containing the fistula is cut out to the periosteum of the coccyx and the gluteal fascia.
- A suction drainage is inserted.
- The pedunculated rhombus flap is relocated to the midline wound and sutured in 2 layers.
- The donor site of the flap is closed by a diagonal suture.
- For 10 days, the patient is positioned on the side only .
- Then the skin threads are removed.
- Shaving and showering was recommended.
- If the course is uncomplicated, healing is then achieved.
Limberg plastic surgery is often performed in the manner shown above. The positioning of the sutures, as for example in the publication Bozkurt is extremely unfavourable. Of all things, the acute-angled portions of the rhombus, which are in any case prone to wound healing disorders, lie in the problematic midline. Furthermore, we frequently observe that a kind of new gluteal fold forms in the middle of the lobe, which predisposes especially for new "pits".
So if this technique is used at all, sufficient displacement to the side must be provided, as schematically shown in the pictures below(Wysocki 2019).
Limberg OP - when do we use the method?
- Never, because there are better alternatives in almost all situations
Even large defects can be closed
In principle possible at any localization
- Good primary cure rates
Unfavourable cosmetic result with deformed body contour
Frequent recurrences (type IV a) when used in the midline
Often formation of numerous "pits" in the new center line. Therefore laser epilation is highly recommended if Limberg surgery has already been performed.