Definition

An intra-abdominal abscess is a pocket of pus or infected fluid inside the abdomen.

Abdominal Organs, Anterior View
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Causes

An abscess forms in response to an infection. White blood cells rush to infected areas to destroy the germs causing the infection. Dead germ cells, damaged white blood cells and damaged tissue collect, creating pus. The pus will continue to collect and create a pocket in the tissue as long as the infection is 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 medical history. A physical exam will be done.

An infection may be suspected based on your symptoms. Some abscesses can be felt on examination. Blood tests may be done to look for signs of infection or signs of your body’s response to an infection.

Images of internal structures may be taken to locate and assess an abscess. This may be done with:

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. The goal of treatment is to remove the fluid and pus from the abscess and treat the infection.

Most abscesses will need to be drained. They may be done by:

  • Percutaneous drain—A small tube is placed through the skin and into the abscess. Pus can then drain out of the body. Imaging tests are often used to help guide the tube to the appropriate area. Occasionally a smaller abscess can be drained with just a needle and syringe.
  • Surgical drainage—Some abscesses may not be ideal for percutaneous draining, either because of location and risk of spreading the infection or the abscess has many parts and could not be drained with one tube. Surgery involves opening the area to remove infected tissue and fluid.

Antibiotics may also be given to prevent the spread of the infection.

Symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea can make it hard to get proper hydration or nutrition. IV fluids or nutritional support may be provided until symptoms pass.

Prevention

There are no known ways to prevent an intra-abdominal abscess. Work with your doctor to manage any underlying conditions that may cause an intra-abdominal abscess.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Daus Mahnke, MD
  • Update Date: 10/03/2016 -