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Pyogenic liver abscess

Liver abscess; Bacterial liver abscess; Hepatic abscess

Pyogenic liver abscess is a pus-filled area in the liver. Pyogenic means producing pus.

Causes

There are many possible causes of liver abscesses, including:

  • Abdominal infection, such as appendicitis, diverticulitis, or a perforated bowel
  • Infection in the blood
  • Infection of the bile draining tubes
  • Recent endoscopy of the bile draining tubes
  • Trauma that damages the liver

A number of common bacteria may cause liver abscesses. In most cases, more than one type of bacteria is found.

Symptoms

Symptoms of liver abscess may include:

  • Chest pain (lower right)
  • Pain in the right upper abdomen (more common) or throughout the abdomen (less common)
  • Clay-colored stools
  • Dark urine
  • Fever, chills, nightsweats
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Yellow skin (jaundice)
  • Right shoulder pain (referred pain)

Exams and Tests

Tests may include:

Treatment

Treatment usually consists of placing a tube through the skin into the liver to drain the abscess. Less often, surgery is needed. You will also receive antibiotics for about 4 to 6 weeks. Sometimes, antibiotics alone can cure the infection.

Outlook (Prognosis)

This condition can be life threatening. The risk for death is higher in people who have many liver abscesses.

Possible Complications

Life-threatening sepsis can develop. Sepsis is an illness in which the body has a severe inflammatory response to bacteria or other germs.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have:

  • Any symptoms of this disorder
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Confusion or decreased consciousness
  • High fever that doesn't go away
  • Other new symptoms during or after treatment

Prevention

Prompt treatment of abdominal and other infections may reduce the risk of developing a liver abscess, but most cases are not preventable.

References

Kim AY, Chung RT. Bacterial, parasitic, and fungal infections of the liver, including liver abscesses. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 84.

Sifri CD, Madoff LC. Infections of the liver and biliary system (liver abscess, cholangitis, cholecystitis). In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, Updated Edition. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 77.

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  • Digestive system - illustration

    The esophagus, stomach, large and small intestine, aided by the liver, gallbladder and pancreas convert the nutritive components of food into energy and break down the non-nutritive components into waste to be excreted.

    Digestive system

    illustration

  • Pyogenic abscess - illustration

    A liver abscess can develop from several different sources, including a blood infection, an abdominal infection, or an abdominal injury which has been become infected. The most common infecting bacteria include E coli, enterococcus, staphylococcus, and streptococcus. Treatment is usually a combination of drainage and prolonged antibiotic therapy.

    Pyogenic abscess

    illustration

  • Digestive system organs - illustration

    The digestive system organs in the abdominal cavity include the liver, gallbladder, stomach, small intestine and large intestine.

    Digestive system organs

    illustration

  • Digestive system - illustration

    The esophagus, stomach, large and small intestine, aided by the liver, gallbladder and pancreas convert the nutritive components of food into energy and break down the non-nutritive components into waste to be excreted.

    Digestive system

    illustration

  • Pyogenic abscess - illustration

    A liver abscess can develop from several different sources, including a blood infection, an abdominal infection, or an abdominal injury which has been become infected. The most common infecting bacteria include E coli, enterococcus, staphylococcus, and streptococcus. Treatment is usually a combination of drainage and prolonged antibiotic therapy.

    Pyogenic abscess

    illustration

  • Digestive system organs - illustration

    The digestive system organs in the abdominal cavity include the liver, gallbladder, stomach, small intestine and large intestine.

    Digestive system organs

    illustration

Tests for Pyogenic liver abscess

 
 

Review Date: 9/22/2018

Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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