What is it ?
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You have an abscess that has formed deep inside your abdomen. This is something brought on by infection after, for example, appendicitis, a burst ulcer, or an operation.
The abscess is a pool of half a pint (250ml) or more of liquid pus. It makes you feel ill and feverish. If left, it can get worse can cause serious problems and even, rarely, threaten your life.
Commonly these abscesses only show up two or more weeks after the infection. Also they often need to be left even longer than this before they are 'ripe' enough to be opened up and drained safely.
The abscess can form high up under the ribs, or deep down in the pelvis, or anywhere in between. Sometimes there are more than one.
An intra-abdominal abscess can be caused by a ruptured appendix, ruptured diverticula, a parasite infection in the intestines (Entamoeba histolytica), or other condition.
Risk factors include a history of appendicitis, diverticulitis, perforated ulcer disease, or any surgery that may have infected the abdominal cavity.
Depending on the location, symptoms may include:
- Abdominal pain and distention
- Lack of appetite
- Rectal tenderness and fullness
Exams and Tests
A complete blood count may show a higher-than-normal white blood count.
A CT scan of the abdomen will usually reveal an intra-abdominal abscess. After the CT scan is done, a needle may be placed through the skin into the abscess cavity to confirm the diagnosis and treat the abscess.
Other Tests may Include:
- Abdominal x-ray
- Liver function tests,
- Ultrasound of the belly area
Treatment of an intra-abdominal abscess requires antibiotics (given by an IV) and drainage. Drainage involves placing a needle through the skin in the abscess, usually under x-ray guidance. The drain is then left in place for days or weeks until the abscess goes away.
Occasionally, abscesses cannot be safely drained this way. In such cases, surgery must be done while the patient is under general anesthesia (unconscious and pain-free). A cut is made in the belly area (abdomen), and the abscess is drained and cleaned. A drain is left in the abscess cavity, and remains in place until the infection goes away.
It is always important to identify and treated the cause of the abscess.
Complications include recurrent abscesses, spontaneous rupture of an abscess, and occasionally, spread of the infection to the blood stream and widespread infection.
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