Abdominal abscess

Introduction to abdominal abscess

An abdominal abscess is a pus-filled ‘bag’ located in any part of the abdomen. For instance, it can be formed close to the inner part of the abdominal wall, at the back of the abdomen, or around organs located in the abdomen such as the kidney, pancreas or the liver.

An abdominal abscess may be due to no obvious reason. They mostly are related to another event e.g. intestinal rupture, intra-abdominal surgery, and abdominal injury.

 

Causes of abdominal abscess

Abdominal bacterial infection: intestinal rupture, severe trauma, or intra-abdominal surgery can predispose the abdomen to bacterial invasion.

Medical conditions: Abscesses found within the abdomen (Intra-abdominal abscesses) can develop when the cavity in the abdomen or any of the organs found there becomes affected in some way. Ulcerative colitis or, Crohn’s disease, intestinal rupture, appendicitis, surgery or penetrating trauma can bring about the abdominal abscess.

Abscesses can also form in the retroperitoneum. This is called retroperitoneal abscesses. The retroperitoneum is the space between the spine and the abdominal cavity.

 

Abdominal abscess

Photo Credit: MedPic.org

 

Symptoms of an abdominal abscess

The following are general symptoms you should expect to see or experience when someone has an abdominal abscess; nausea and vomiting, fever, abdominal pain, appetite loss, and an unwell feeling.

Diagnosis of abdominal abscess

  • Abdominal ultrasound: It is usually the first diagnostic test undertaken. High-frequency sound waves are used to create images of abdominal organs.
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scans
  •  Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

 

Abdominal ultrasound

During an abdominal ultrasound, you will be required to lie on a table with your back. You will lie on your back so as to expose your abdomen. A clear, water-based gel will then be applied on the skin over your abdomen. A transducer, which is a handheld tool, is passed over your abdomen. With the transducer, the technician can view the structures in the abdominal region via the waves the transducer produces. The waves are interpreted using a computer.

 

Computerized tomography (CT) scans

A CT scan can display abdominal growths, localized abscesses, foreign objects in the body, ruptures, organs and abdominal growths.

A CT scan is a kind of X-ray that has the ability to show cross-sectional images of a particular area of the body. During the scan, you will lie flat on a table, which is positioned in the gantry. The gantry is a hole in the middle of the scanner.

Images of your abdomen will be taken from various angles when the gantry begins to rotate around your abdomen. The doctor can then view the images and know what the problem is probably.

 

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

The MRI machine is normally a long magnetic tube. It produces magnetic fields that surround your body and allows water molecules to be aligned.

When you are to be tested using MRI, you are expected to lie on a bed. This bed slides into the opening of the tube. This allows the machine to capture very clear, cross-sectional images of your abdomen using radio waves and large magnets. By this way, abdominal abnormalities in the tissues and organs can be diagnosed.

 

Abscess fluid sample analysis

When an abscess is detected, a fluid sample is obtained from it by your doctor for examination and better diagnosis.

 

Treatment of abdominal abscess

Needle drainage

A needle will be used to drain the pus in the abscess. This is one of the basic steps in treating an abdominal abscess. This is made possible by using either an ultrasound or a CT scan. These guide the doctor on where to insert the needle so as to get to the abscess. The fluid is then taken for further analysis. Upon analysis, the doctor will be better informed on the antibiotics (intravenous or oral), to prescribe.

 

Surgical approach

There are certain instances where an abdominal abscess will require a surgical aid. Surgery will usually be required in the following cases;

  1. When there is rupture of an organ,
  2. When the abscess needs to be more thoroughly cleaned,
  3. When the abscess is quite difficult to reach using a needle.

To conduct a surgical procedure on an abdominal abscess, you will be administered with a general anesthesia so you can be put you to sleep for the needed for the surgery. The surgeon then makes a cut in the abdomen, passes a needle through it and then drains the fluid using a tube attached to the needle.

Upon draining the abscess, it can take several days or weeks for healing to take place.

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