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What Is a Ruptured Abscess?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 14 April 2014
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A ruptured abscess is a collection of encapsulated inflammatory material that breaks open, releasing pus and other fluids into the surrounding area. Depending on the location of the abscess, a rupture may make a patient feel better by allowing the abscess to drain, or it may expose the patient to risks of serious medical complications like peritonitis. When abscesses are identified, they should be treated promptly and ideally surgically drained to create a controlled rupture.

Abscesses form as a result of localized inflammation, sometimes in response to an injury or the presence of a foreign object. Cells start to die, white blood cells cluster in the area, and a pocket of pus and other body fluids forms. The body forms a defensive wall around the pocket, sealing the contents so they cannot spread to healthy cells in the area. The site of the abscess is usually swollen, hot, and tender. Such pockets can form anywhere, from the inside of the cheek to deep inside the bowels.

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While it is possible for an abscess to reabsorb into the body, most do not heal independently. If an abscess is allowed to persist untreated, there is a risk it will become a ruptured abscess. The pocket will burst open, releasing a collection of material with a very strong and unpleasant odor. If the abscess drains to the surface of the body, it can be relatively easy to clean and care for. Internal abscesses, however, can cause infections and other problems when they rupture. For example, a ruptured abscess in the bowel could release the contents of the bowels into the stomach cavity, a very undesirable medical event.

Treatment for a ruptured abscess involves irrigating the site to completely clean it, and possibly debriding some dead tissue away as well. The ruptured abscess will be bandaged and the patient may be provided with antibiotics in case of infection. A ruptured internal abscess may require surgery to repair the area and check for signs of complications. If a patient experiences repeat abscesses, treatment may also include screening to find out why, with the goal of preventing future buildups of inflamed material.

If a patient identifies an abscess and seeks treatment before it ruptures, a doctor will usually recommend lancing to puncture the walls of the capsule and drain the contents. Once the abscess is drained, it can be cleaned and debrided and the patient can be assessed for indicators suggesting that the inflammation has spread to determine if additional treatment is needed.

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Discuss this Article

anon945708
Post 11

For any of you who have an abscess anywhere near your mouth or jaw: Go to the ER! And in a hospital where they have oral surgery! I put it off and almost died with a sub-mandibular space abscess caused by the extraction of one wisdom tooth! Three days at SF General saved my life. It's a long and slow healing process, but I found that many more people die from this than I could ever have imagined.

anon926156
Post 10

I have an abscessed tooth now. My jaw is swollen to the point where I can hardly smile. For the past two weeks I have been through the worst pain in my life. I went to the E.R and they gave me antibiotics. My dentist appointment is in a week and I'm all out of options. I want to take a needle and pop the abscess but I'm scared. This is so painful. I want to bash my head through a wall. I can't even tell where the pain starts and ends anymore. Will the antibiotics help me? If so, then how long will it take? I'm dying here.

caligal242
Post 9

My 15 week old puppy seemed to have a very mild case of vaginitis. She had a small drop of whitish discharge every few days. Now she appears to be developing an abscess on the exterior of her vagina. Did the vaginitis cause the abscess that is growing? Can I become infected by her abscess? Can the dog's infection be a threat?

Abscesses are very contagious, evolving into MRSA type staph infections. I have a highly compromised immune system and MRSA infections are a longtime foe.

anon319417
Post 8

I flossed my bottom front teeth and went down too far, hurting my gums. I ended up with an abscess that lasted one month short of seven years. I went to the dentist an was told that according to my X-ray, there was a foreign body in there and I need to see a specialist. I didn't have the money and dealt with it. The infection would surface about the same time I got over my period. Well this last time, the foreign body came out with the pus, and two days later, no more infection. Long seven years.

anon281115
Post 7

I took my dog to the vet on Friday, She had a abscess somewhere around her throat. She went in for surgery to have it drained and as soon as they put her under with the anesthetic, the abscess broke they could not save her. I just want to know would she have died if I had not agreed to surgery.

BabaB
Post 6

It always amazes me when I read about yet another way that our body tries to protect itself. When you get a cut or inflammation, the body knows just what to do.

It sends blood to the area where cell are dying and produces a substance (pus) that forms kind of a nest around the injured area to keep the dead cells and any infection from spreading to other areas.

If the area of abscess gets too swollen and tight, the outer layer pops open spreading the infection. It's like the body can't complete the process - it can't do the cleanup so it's time for a doctor to take over.

B707
Post 5

I remember once my mother had a large abscess in the middle of her lower back. It started off small so she didn't think much of it. Then it started getting bigger and was painful.

She thought about rupturing it herself, but my dad talked her into going to the doctor. The doctor broke it open and drained it. She had it bandaged, with instructions to clean it everyday and put antiseptic on it. It healed well and she said if she got an abscess again, she wouldn't even think about treating it herself.

Oceana
Post 4

I had an abscess arise where a dog bit me. It was a playful bite, but painful, nonetheless. After a day or so, I saw a red bump with a white center where the tooth mark indentation had been.

I lanced it with a needle, and whitish-yellow fluid oozed out. It really resembled a big pimple. I cleaned the area with rubbing alcohol and put an antibiotic cream on it. It got better and disappeared within a week.

Some of my friends insisted that I needed to see a doctor, but I knew he would probably have just done the same thing I did to treat the wound. I think that if I had waited for it to rupture on its own, the infection may have spread, so I’m pretty sure I did the right thing by draining it.

OeKc05
Post 3

When my husband got bit by a spider, he didn’t know it was poisonous. Within a few weeks, he had a big abscess from it, so he knew he needed a doctor’s help.

His doctor ruptured the abscess to drain it. She had to give him a local anesthetic, because she had to cut pretty deep into his leg to get to the bottom of the infected area. Then, she had to scrape out the dead tissue.

She packed it with gauze and gave him some antibiotics. He said when he came back to her in a few days to have the wound redressed, he nearly fainted when she pulled several feet of gauze from his wound and started stuffing a bunch back into the hole.

SarahSon
Post 2

I had a toothache that continued to get worse and when I went to the dentist found out I had a tooth abscess infection.

This was much more painful than I thought it would be and should have gone to the dentist sooner than I did.

I was given an antibiotic for the infection and ended up having the tooth removed. This is something I really don't want to go through again. Next time I begin to have some tooth pain, I will make sure to be seen right away.

honeybees
Post 1

I have never had an abscess, but this happened to one of our horses. This abscess was on the outside of her neck and just kept getting bigger.

When the vet looked at it he went ahead and punctured it and a lot of pus and foul smelling stuff drained out.

There continued to be drainage for a few days and the most important thing was to keep the area clean. We used a water hose to make sure and keep it as clean as possible.

The vet told us it would heal from the inside out so it might take a few days before it looked much better to us, but healing was still taking place. .

We also had to keep her in the barn and not let her out in the pasture until it was well healed. I am glad it had not ruptured yet as that could have been a much bigger mess to deal with.

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