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Liver abscess

Liver abscess - What it is

​A liver abscess is a collection of pus within the liver.  They are most commonly due to a bacterial infection, but can also be caused by fungi or parasites.  In many cases, patients may have underlying biliary disease, a broad term for conditions affecting the liver, pancreas and gall bladder. This can result in development of a liver abscess. 

Liver abscess - Symptoms

​Symptoms of a liver abscess may include fever, chills, right upper abdominal pain, diarrhea, loss of appetite and/or weight loss. 

Liver abscess - How to prevent?

Liver abscess - Causes and Risk Factors

Risk factors for liver abscesses include:
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Ruptured appendix
  • Cancer of the colon or pancreas
  • Bloodstream infection (septicaemia)

Liver abscess - Diagnosis

Your doctor will likely order a combination of tests to diagnose a liver abscess and determine the cause. These may include blood tests (including blood cultures) and imaging tests such as ultrasound scans, CT (computed tomography) scans or MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging).

A followup endoscopic investigation may sometimes be required to look for growths or pathology in the gastrointestinal tract. 

Liver abscess - Treatments

It is important to seek treatment if you have a liver abscess. If left untreated, liver abscesses can be fatal. To treat a liver abscess, your doctor will usually have to drain the collection of pus in the liver, and put you on a course of antibiotics for several weeks. The choice of antibiotics will be guided by the results of microbiological cultures taken from both your blood and the pus collection in the liver. 

In most cases, drainage of the liver abscess can be performed under local anaesthetic by an interventional radiologist, who will insert a drain into the liver using CT or ultrasound guidance. However, more complicated cases may require surgery to drain the abscess adequately.

Liver abscess - Preparing for surgery

Liver abscess - Post-surgery care

Liver abscess - Other Information

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