An abdominal abscess is a pocket of infected fluid and pus located inside the belly (abdominal cavity). This type of abscess can be located near or inside the liver, pancreas, kidneys or other organs. There can be one or more abscesses.
You can get abdominal abscesses because you have:
You are more at risk for an abdominal abscess if you have:
Germs may pass through your blood to an organ in your belly. Sometimes, no reason can be found for an abscess.
Pain or discomfort in the belly that does not go away is a common symptom. This pain:
Depending on where the abscess is located, you may have:
Other symptoms of an abdominal abscess may be a lot like symptoms of having the flu. You may have:
Your symptoms can be a sign of many different problems. Your health care provider will do some tests when they think you have an abdominal abscess. These may include the following tests:
Other tests that should show abdominal abscesses:
Your health care team will try to identify and treat the cause of the abscess. Your abscess will be treated with antibiotics and drainage of the pus. At first, you will likely receive care in the hospital.
You will be given antibiotics to treat the abscess. You will take them for up to 4 to 6 weeks.
Your abscess needs to be drained of pus. Your health care provider and you will decide the best way to do this.
Using a needle and drain -- Your provider puts a needle through the skin and into the abscess. Usually, this is done with the help of x-rays to make sure the needle is inserted into the abscess.
Your provider will give you medicine to make you sleepy, and medicine to numb the skin before the needle is inserted into the skin.
A sample of the abscess will be sent to the lab. This helps your provider choose which antibiotics to use.
A drain is left in the abscess so that pus can drain out. Usually, the drain is kept in for days or weeks until the abscess gets better.
How well you respond to treatment depends on the cause of the abscess and how bad the infection is. It also depends on your overall health. Usually antibiotics and drainage takes care of abdominal abscesses that have not spread.
You may need more than one operation. Sometimes, an abscess will come back.
Complications may include:
Call your health care provider if you have:
Abscess - intra-abdominal; Pelvic abscess
Minei JP, Champine JG. Abdominal abscesses and gastrointestinal fistulas. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2010:chap 26.
Prather C. Inflammatory and anatomic diseases of the intestine, peritoneum, mesentery, and omentum. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 144.
Squires RA, Postier RG. Acute abdomen. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 47.
Updated by: Jenifer K. Lehrer, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Frankford-Torresdale Hospital, Aria Health System, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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