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Intra-Abdominal Abscess

Definition

An abscess is a pocket of pus or infected fluid. This type is found in the belly.

Abdominal Organs, Anterior View

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Causes

An abscess forms because of an infection. Dead germs and damaged tissue build up. This build up is pus.

The pus will create a pocket in the area around it. It will continue to grow if the infection is still present.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase the risk of intra-abdominal abscess may include:

Symptoms

Symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lack of appetite
  • Unintentional weight loss

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

An infection may be suspected based on your 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:

Treatment

Antibiotics may be given to treat the infection. It can also stop the infection from spreading.

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.

Support care may also be given. IV fluids or nutrition help may be given if there is nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.

Prevention

There are no known ways to prevent this abscess. Work with your doctor to manage any conditions that increase your risk of this abscess.

RESOURCES:

American College of Surgeons
https://www.facs.org

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
https://www.familydoctor.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca

The College of Family Physicians of Canada
http://www.cfpc.ca

REFERENCES:

Intra-abdominal abscess. University of Rochester Medical Center website. Available at: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=134&ContentID=145. Accessed October 2, 2017.

Intra-abdominal abscesses. Merck Manual Professional Manual website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal-disorders/acute-abdomen-and-surgical-gastroenterology/intra-abdominal-abscesses. Updated January 2017. Accessed October 2, 2017.

Intra-abdominal sepsis and abscesses. Patient website. Available at: https://patient.info/doctor/intra-abdominal-sepsis-and-abscesses. Updated March 11, 2016. Accessed October 2, 2017.

Schein M. Management of intra-abdominal abscesses. In: Holzheimer RG, Mannick JA, editors. Surgical treatment: Evidence-based and problem-oriented. Munich: Zuckschwerdt; 2001. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK6937. Accessed October 2, 2017.

Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daus Mahnke, MD  Last Updated: 10/3/2016