An abscess is a pocket of pus or infected fluid. An intra-abdominal abscess is found in the belly. It may be near the liver, intestines, or other organs. Early treatment can improve outcomes.
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An abscess forms because of an infection. Dead germs and damaged tissue form into pus.
The pus will create a pocket in the area around it. It will continue to grow if the infection is still present.
Things that raise the risk of intra-abdominal abscess may be:
Symptoms may be:
- Belly, chest, or shoulder pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loose stools (poop)
- Lack of hunger
- Weight loss without trying
The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.
An infection may be suspected based on symptoms. The doctor may feel the abscess during an exam. Blood tests may also be done. They can show signs of infection.
Images may be needed to look for an abscess. Options include:
The goal is to treat the infection and stop it from spreading. Antibiotics may be given by mouth or IV.
Fluid and pus from the abscess may also need to be removed. This may help speed healing. Abscesses may be drained with:
- Percutaneous drain—A small tube is inserted into the abscess. Pus can then drain out of the body. A needle may be able to remove fluid from smaller abscesses.
- Surgical drainage—may be needed for larger abscesses or those in hard to reach spots. The area will be opened. The infected tissue and fluid are removed.
IV fluids or nutrition help may be given if there is nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
There are no known guidelines for preventing an intra-abdominal abscess.
American College of Surgeons
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
Collins G, Allaway MGR, et al. Non-operative management of small post-appendicectomy intra-abdominal abscess is safe and effective. ANZ J Surg. 2020;90(10):1979-1983.
Intra-abdominal abscess. Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/intraabdominal-abscess. Accessed August 9, 2021.
Intra-abdominal abscesses. Merck Manual Professional Manual website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal-disorders/acute-abdomen-and-surgical-gastroenterology/intra-abdominal-abscesses. Accessed August 9, 2021.
Surgical management of Crohn disease in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/surgical-management-of-crohn-disease-in-adults. Accessed August 8, 2021.
Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Dan Ostrovsky, MD Last Updated: 8/9/2021