Pilonidal Terminology

The terms used to describe pilonidal disease are confusing to both patients and physicians. A “pilonidal cyst” is the term used when there is a pocket of hair under the skin. It is not really a cyst in the true meaning of the word, but it is the name commonly used.

If the “cyst” becomes infected and painful, it is called a “pilonidal abscess”.

If the inflammation from the cyst burrows sideways and creates an opening that intermittently becomes painful and drains, it is now called a “pilonidal sinus”.

If there is not a noticeable cyst, abscess, or sinus – but there are enlarged midline pores (pits) or even open wounds – we don’t have good terminology, and it is often just referred to as “pilonidal disease”.

When surgery for pilonidal disease fails, and patients are left with open wounds that aren’t healing because of their location in the gluteal crease, we call this pilonidal disease or pilonidal wounds – but, again, there isn’t well accepted terminology for this.