An intra-abdominal abscess is a collection of pus or infected fluid that is surrounded by inflamed tissue inside the belly. It can involve any abdominal organ, or it can settle in the folds of the bowel.
Intra-abdominal abscesses sometimes happen because of another condition. An example might be appendicitis or diverticulitis. Many cases, however, happen after surgery.
Abdominal abscesses can be caused by a bacterial infection. The most common bacteria to cause them are found in the stomach and intestines. One of these is Escherichia coli or E. coli. If left untreated, the bacteria will multiply and cause inflammation and kill healthy tissue.
Abdominal surgery or trauma and conditions, such as diabetes or inflammatory bowel disease, can put you at risk for an intra-abdominal abscess.
If you've recently had surgery or trauma to an abdominal organ and have other risk factors, such as diabetes or inflammatory bowel disease, be on the lookout for signs of an intra-abdominal abscess.
Common symptoms include:
If you have symptoms of an intra-abdominal abscess, your healthcare provider may order tests to look for the presence of infection:
Antibiotics may help treat an infection that could lead to an intra-abdominal abscess. But once the abscess has developed, antibiotics don't work as well for treatment. An intra-abdominal abscess often will need to be drained of fluid in order to heal. Typically, however, antibiotics are given along with draining the abscess. The type of antibiotic will depend on how severe your abscess is, your age, and any other conditions you may have.
One way to remove fluid is through percutaneous drainage. This is a process in which your healthcare provider guides a needle through the skin to the place where the infection is. This is a short procedure. Your healthcare provider will give you a sedative and a local anesthetic to help you relax and eliminate any discomfort or pain while it is being done.
Another way to drain the abscess is with surgery. Surgical procedures may also involve repairing the condition that caused the abscess in the first place, such as a bowel perforation. Sometimes, more than one operation is needed.
Many times, a drainage catheter is left in the abscess cavity after it is drained. This will be checked by the healthcare team and removed when appropriate.
Your outcome will depend on the cause of your infection and how quickly you sought treatment. The right early treatment can significantly improve the outcome for people who develop intra-abdominal abscesses.
While you are being treated for an intra-abdominal abscess, you may need nutritional support. This can be done by placing a feeding tube.
If you've recently had surgery or trauma to an abdominal organ and have other risk factors, such as diabetes or inflammatory bowel disease, and you develop a fever, belly pain, nausea or vomiting, or other symptoms, you should immediately call your healthcare provider.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
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