AIM To compare incision and drainage with oblique excision and primary closure in the treatment of pilonidal abscesses. MATERIALS AND METHODS In this prospective study, one of two surgeons at the same hospital performed incision and drainage as the treatment method for patients presenting with pilonidal abscesses. (Group A). The other surgeon performed oblique excision and primary closure (Group B). The rate of development of chronic pilonidal sinus and time to return to active work were assessed using the chi-square and Student's t-tests to compare the two methods of treatment. Of the 128 patients, incision and simple drainage was applied to 69 patients and primary closure was applied to 59 patients. RESULTS The rate of development of chronic pilonidal sinus was 78.8% in Group A and 6.0% in Group B (P < 0.001). In Group A, the average healing time and time to return to active work were 18 and 25 days, respectively. In Group B, these times were 22 and 27 days, respectively (P < 0.001). CONCLUSION Oblique excision and primary closure may be a preferable treatment for acute pilonidal abscesses because of its low rate of chronic sinus development.