Navigate Up

Men's Center - A-Z Index

#
Q
Y
Z

Print This Page

Intra-abdominal abscess

An intra-abdominal abscess is a pocket of infected fluid and pus located inside the belly (abdominal cavity). There may be more than one abscess.

Alternative Names

Abscess - intra-abdominal

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

An intra-abdominal abscess can be caused by a ruptured appendix, ruptured intestinal diverticulum , inflammatory bowel disease, parasite infection in the intestines (Entamoeba histolytica), or other condition.

Risk factors include a history of appendicitis, diverticulitis, perforated ulcer disease, or any surgery that may have infected the abdominal cavity.

Symptoms

Depending on the location, symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal pain and distention
  • Chills
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Lack of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Rectal tenderness and fullness
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness

Signs and tests

A complete blood count may show a higher than normal white blood count. A comprehensive metabolic panel may show liver, kidney, or blood chemistry problems.

A CT scan of the abdomen will usually reveal an intra-abdominal abscess. After the CT scan is done, a needle may be placed through the skin into the abscess cavity to confirm the diagnosis and treat the abscess.

Other tests may include:

  • Abdominal x-ray
  • Ultrasound of the abdomen

Sometimes surgery called a laparotomy may be needed to diagnose this condition.

Treatment

Treatment of an intra-abdominal abscess requires antibiotics (given by an IV) and drainage. Drainage involves placing a needle through the skin in the abscess, usually under x-ray guidance. The drain is then left in place for days or weeks until the abscess goes away.

Occasionally, abscesses cannot be safely drained this way. In such cases, surgery must be done while the patient is under general anesthesia (unconscious and pain-free). A cut is made in the belly area (abdomen), and the abscess is drained and cleaned. A drain is left in the abscess cavity, and remains in place until the infection goes away.

It is always important to identify and treat the cause of the abscess.

Expectations (prognosis)

The outlook depends on the original cause of the abscess and how bad the infection is. Generally, drainage is successful in treating intra-abdominal abscesses that have not spread.

Complications

Complications include:

  • Return of the abscess
  • Rupture of an abscess
  • Spread of the infection to the bloodstream
  • Widespread infection in the abdomen

Calling your health care provider

Call your doctor if you have severe abdominal pain, fevers, nausea, vomiting, or changes in bowel habits.

References

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:Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 26.

Prather C. Inflammatory and anatomic diseases of the intestine, peritoneum, mesentery, and omentum. In Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 144.

Updated: 8/10/2012

David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.


©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com