An abdominal abscess is a collection of pus in the abdominal cavity. It can occur anywhere in the abdomen area (such as the stomach, liver, kidneys, or intestines). The problem is enclosed in a capsule that is made up of infected tissues. This is filled with pus (consists of dead skin cells, bacteria and blood).
Abdominal Abscess Causes
Here is the list of causes of an abdominal abscess:
- Bacterial infection – Bacteria may be present in food that was ill-prepared, or may be acquired through other sources (such as poor living conditions, poor hygiene, and recent abdominal surgery).
- Rupture of appendix – When the appendix is becomes inflamed, it can enlarge and cause sharp pain to the lower right side of the abdomen. This can become infected too, and may lead to rupture. When the appendix ruptures, this can cause infection to the abdominal cavity, thus leading to an abdominal abscess.
- Stomach ulcers – When there is presence of ulcers, the integrity of the stomach wall is poor. This may lead to infection and eventually abscess development.
Abdominal Abscess Symptoms
Here is a run-through of some of the possible symptoms of the problem:
- Pain in the abdominal area, in particular in the part where the problem lies. The surrounding areas can also be painful.
- Due to infection, fever may be present.
- Sensation of fullness or a feeling of being bloated. The stomach can be gassy as well. When percussed (tapped), there is a sound like hitting a drum when the stomach is filled with air.
- Abdominal swelling and increased girth – the waist line will be increased due to the edema (swelling) brought about by infection.
- Fatigue – heaviness and pain felt in the abdomen may be exhausting to the affected individual.
- Due to the increased pressure in the abdominal cavity, this may result to nausea and vomiting.
- Poor peristaltic activity (intestinal movements) of the intestines – due to infection and presence of abdominal abscesses. This can cause constipation or diarrhea.
- Lack of appetite and weight loss – due to poor food intake, there will be decreased body mass.
- Bladder irritation – due to increased pressure and enlarged abdomen, this may press on the bladder causing bladder irritation. This can lead to symptoms such as frequent urinating and increased urge to urinate.
To confirm a certain medical condition, diagnostic tests must be done to carefully evaluate the present illness. Diagnostic tests are performed to aid the physician in his/her treatment plans and interventions. The common tests for this problem may include:
- CT scan (Computerized Tomography) – this diagnostic test is done to assess the morphology (structure) of the abdomen and if there are any abnormal growths present. A CT scan provides 3Dimensional imagery of the internal organs. CT scans also provide cross-sectional images (horizontal and vertical slices) of organs, thus aiding the physician in identifying the specific location of any problems.
- Ultrasound of the whole abdomen – a test performed to check for growths and to assess for any defects in any of the organs.
- MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) – preferred for patients without metal implants. Before the procedure, all items with metal such as bra, belt, accessories (such as necklace, earrings) are removed. This is a confirmatory test for diagnosing abdominal abscess. MRI provides detailed structure of the abdomen.
- Stool exam / Stool Culture and Sensitivity – feces is submitted to the laboratory (preferably 0 – 30 minutes after defecating for test accuracy). This is done to assess the stool formation (watery – diarrhea, hard – constipated), and also to check for the condition of the digestive track. This will aid the examiner determine the bacteria causing any abdominal abscess.
Abdominal Abscess Treatment
Abdominal abscess may be treated at home, with the aid of prescribed medicines (see below).
Home treatment practices for abdominal abscess:
- Warm compresses on the abdomen – to reduce pain, swelling and to promote good blood circulation in the area.
- Sufficient sleep and rest – provides comfort and reduces fatigue brought about by infections.
- Proper diet– based on the food pyramid (less in fat and salt, avoidance of alcohol, sodas and junk foods). Raw meat and vegetables must be washed properly to
prevent food poisoning. Cook meat well to avoid ingesting harmful organisms present in the meat and blood. Choose a diet that is high in fiber to prevent/ease constipation.
- Proper hygienic practices – wash hands regularly (such as before and after meals, after using the toilet) to avoid ingestion of harmful microorganisms present in our hands. Bathe daily and wear clothes that are not tight around the mid-section (such as corset, tight pants or belts) to reduce pressure.
Abdominal abscess treatments prescribed / ordered by the doctor:
- Medicines – antibiotics are prescribed to stop the spread of bacteria, halting their growth and multiplication. Thus reducing the possibility of spreading to the surrounding organs. Pain killers and anti-pyretic medicines (for fever) – usually, antipyretic medicines come with pain reducing effects as well. This is prescribed to normalize the body temperature. A separate pain killer may also be prescribed to alleviate the patient from the discomfort.
- Abscess drainage – when the abscess is near the surface, a needle aspiration procedure may be done. An MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) diagnostic test may be performed first to determine the exact location of the abscess. A wire may be inserted as a guide. See more on drainage here.
- When abscess drainage and antibiotics are ineffective, surgery will be performed. This will be done in the Operating Room under general anesthesia. The abdomen may be incised to access the abscess and to remove the surrounding infected tissues.
- Laparoscopy – a kind of surgery done in the Operating room under general anesthesia. This is done by creating small punctures (usually 3 punctures with the size of 1cm or less in diameter) in the abdomen. Laparoscopy is less invasive than open surgery. A camera and light source is secured in place. This is attached to the monitor for the physician to see what is inside. The other holes are for the other instruments. These instruments are special tools used by the surgeon to remove the abscess. The instruments are long and have hand graspers / controllers in the end (a laparoscopic scissor looks like a scissor, but the scissor itself is at the very tip of the instrument, and to control it, a grasper is attached at the end). Everything that is done inside can be seen in the monitor. The procedure may also be recorded in a disk and the physician may go over it for review. Laparoscopic procedure is preferred for patients with Diabetes and other medical illnesses (such as cancer, etc.), due to its faster recovery time than open abdominal surgery.