What Can Cause a Bowel Abscess?

Meshell Powell

A bowel abscess is a potentially serious medical complication that has a variety of possible causes. This type of inflammation is most commonly caused by infection that affects the intestines. A bowel disorder known as diverticulosis can frequently lead to a type of bowel inflammation and infection known as diverticulitis, a well-known cause of the formation of a bowel abscess. Additional medical conditions that might lead to this complication include pelvic inflammatory disease, peritonitis or Crohn's disease. Any individualized questions or concerns about the development of a bowel abscess should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.

Colon diseases, like diverticulitis, can cause bowel abscesses.
Colon diseases, like diverticulitis, can cause bowel abscesses.

Diverticulosis is a medical condition in which multiple pouches develop along the walls of the intestines. If these pouches become inflamed, a condition called diverticulitis might develop, often causing infection and a buildup of pus that forms the bowel abscess. Dietary changes and prescription antibiotics are frequently all that is needed to treat the infection, although surgical intervention is sometimes required.

Appendicitis can lead to a bowel abscess.
Appendicitis can lead to a bowel abscess.

Pelvic inflammatory disease is an inflammation involving the female reproductive organs, often as a result of a sexually transmitted infection or disease. This infection can sometimes spread to the intestines, leading to the development of a bowel abscess. Peritonitis involves the inflammation of the thin membrane that lines the walls of the abdomen, and a bowel abscess is one of the possible complications of this condition. These conditions are often treated with antibiotics, although additional medications or surgery might be indicated in some severe cases.

Bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease also are among the possible causes of a bowel abscess. Ulcerative colitis can cause intermittent bouts of constipation and diarrhea, abdominal pain and open sores inside the intestines. Crohn's disease causes symptoms that are similar to those of ulcerative colitis, although the symptoms are often more severe among people who have Crohn's disease. Both conditions normally are treated with medications, dietary changes and lifestyle modifications, although surgical intervention might become necessary sometimes.

Appendicitis or pancreatitis might sometimes lead to the development of a bowel abscess. These organs might leak or rupture because of extreme inflammation caused by infection. The pus and other infectious materials might then leak out and spread to other organs of the body. Emergency surgery is necessary in these cases because after the infection invades multiple organs or the bloodstream, life-threatening complications might develop. Any sudden abdominal pain, especially if accompanied by fever, nausea or vomiting, should be reported to a doctor right away for further medical evaluation.

Bowel abscess is most commonly caused by infection that affects the small intestines.
Bowel abscess is most commonly caused by infection that affects the small intestines.

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Discussion Comments


@turquoise-- My dad also suffered from bowel abscess around the time he had intestinal cancer. From my dad's experience, I know that his abscesses were treated by cutting them open to remove the fluid inside and then stitched up and left to heal. I have not heard of the entire abscess being removed but I'm not familiar with any other health situations than my dad's.

Perhaps the abscesses formed due Crohn's disease tend to be a bit more serious or chronic in nature.

I just know that bowel abscesses and fistulas are not something that can be ignored or left alone because it can get worse. The infection could possibly eat through the bowel membrane and up causing cracks or openings through which stool can leak.


@anamur-- Did you have the bowel abscess cut out during your diverticulitis surgery or just drained and left to heal?

I'm due for surgery to have my bowel abscess removed next week and I'm pretty stressed about it. My doctor said that the abscess formed as a symptom of Crohn's disease which is known for causing bowel and abdominal abscesses. Thankfully, the abscess was caught pretty early and there is only one right now. So my doctor thinks that removing it will provide long-term relief.

I hope everything will go well. I've heard pretty bad things about bowel abscesses- mainly that they re-occur and can spread to the point of requiring a colostomy. I'm really scared that this could happen to me.


I've had diverticulitis surgery to remove diverticula from my intestines. I was diagnosed with diverticulitis and bowel abscess the year I turned 60 and my doctor said that diverticulitis happens to many people over a certain age.

Basically due to age and improper bowel movements, these pouches / fistula form on the intestines and bulge out. After some time, they get infected from stool and also develop bowel abscesses.

After I had these pouches removed surgically followed by an antibiotic treatment, my bowel abscess was also treated. I'm glad to have gotten the surgery. The infection was causing me pain and if I had only treated the bowel abscess, it would have reoccurred later on from the diverticulitis. I feel that I have resolved the root of the problem and I have not had any problems since surgery.

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