What is a liver abscess?

Liver abscess is a pus-filled cyst in the liver. The liver is an organ in the digestive system that assists the digestive process and carries out many other essential functions. These functions include producing bile to help break down food into energy; creating essential substances, such as hormones; cleaning toxins from the blood, including those from medication, alcohol and drugs; and controlling fat storage and cholesterol production and release.

Anyone can get a liver abscess. The condition can be caused by infections spread directly from nearby structures, such as the bile-draining tubes, from the appendix or intestines, or carried in the bloodstream from more distant parts of the body. A liver abscess can also develop as a result of surgery or other trauma to the liver.

The most common type of liver abscess is caused by bacterial or parasitic infection. Bacterial liver abscess is often called pyogenic liver abscess. Microscopic organisms called amebas, which cause the intestinal disorder amebic dysentery, can also cause amebic liver abscess.

When detected in time, liver abscess is usually treatable and often can be cured with a course of antibiotics or a combination of antibiotics and a surgical procedure to drain the abscess. Left untreated, however, a liver abscess can burst and spread the infection, leading to sepsis, a life-threatening bacterial blood infection.

An untreated liver abscess can cause sepsis, a life-threatening blood infection. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as choking or severe difficulty breathing, which may be combined with high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit); change in level of consciousness or alertness, such as passing out or unresponsiveness; or a change in mental status or sudden behavior change, such as confusion, delirium, lethargy, hallucinations and delusions.

Seek prompt medical care if you experience any of the following symptoms, including yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes (jaundice); abdominal pain (especially in the right upper abdomen); nausea with or without vomiting; clay-colored stools; dark urine; fever or chills; loss of appetite; unexplained weight loss; or weakness.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of a liver abscess?

Symptoms of liver abscess vary among individuals but most commonly include a combination of the symptoms listed below. In itself, a liver abscess is not life threatening, but it can become dangerous if it opens and spreads the infection. This can happen suddenly, so you should consult your health care provider if you have any of the following symptoms.

Common symptoms of a liv... Read more about liver abscesssymptoms

CAUSES

What causes a liver abscess?

Anyone can get a liver abscess. The condition can be caused by infections in the blood, gastrointestinal system, or abdomen. It can also be caused by injury from a surgical procedure or other trauma to the liver.

Infectious causes of a liver abscess

Liver abscess may result from the following infectious causes:

TREATMENTS

How is a liver abscess treated?

Liver abscess is treated with both medications and surgical drainage. If you have amebic liver abscess, after the liver infection is cured, you will probably be prescribed another drug to kill any amebas remaining in the intestines so as to prevent recurrence of the abscess.

Surgical treatment of liver abscess is necessary in many cases to drain the abscess with a needle or small ... Read more about liver abscesstreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 6, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Digestive System


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