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What is an Abdominal Abscess?

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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 November 2016
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    Conjecture Corporation
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An abdominal abscess is very similar to those which appear on the skin, as they consist of a pocket or boil filled with pus, debris, and blood cells. They are generally caused by bacteria which get beneath or in the skin and begin to infection the surrounding tissues. As the pocket grows, it can become very painful and tender and may cause abdominal pain and irritation.

In the majority of cases, an abdominal abscess forms due to another medical conditions such as a ruptured appendix or parasitic infection. These conditions may create vulnerable areas of the abdomen where bacteria can easily invade. Unlike an exterior abscess on the skin, an abdominal abscess may not be noticeable until it is large enough to cause symptoms. Common symptoms can include diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, chills, and fever.

The primary treatment for an abdominal abscess includes the use of antibiotics and a catheter which is used to drain the pus and other contents. It is generally inserted through the skin into the abscess and left in place until there is no sign of infection. In very severe cases, patients may require surgery to remove the abscess at the source.

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Diagnosis of an abdominal abscess may require the use of an ultrasound, X-ray, or computed tomography (CT) scan. More rarely, minor surgery may be needed to diagnose the abscess. In most patients, it can be successfully treated without the need for surgical removal.

In very severe cases, an abdominal abscess may rupture and begin to drain infection into the abdominal cavity. The pus contained inside the wound is highly contagious, and widespread infection can result. This may require heavy use of strong antibiotics delivered intravenously and removal of the remaining drainage if possible. In most cases a full recovery will be possible, but those with compromised immune systems may have a harder time healing after a serious infection.

Since symptoms of an abdominal abscess are very similar to those of other conditions, patients who have undergone any type of abdominal surgery or who have had certain medical conditions should be diligent about noticing any unusual symptoms. Any abdominal pain or discomfort should be reported to a health care professional immediately. With prompt medical care, most abscesses can be treated easily with few side effects. Since they are highly contagious, especially once ruptured, continued monitoring or treatment may be necessary.

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