Understanding Liver Abscess
A liver abscess is a pocket of pus that forms in the liver. It must be treated right away to prevent serious problems.
How does a liver abscess happen?
A liver abscess most often occurs because of infection from germs such as bacteria, parasites, or fungi. The type of germ determines what type of liver abscess you have:
Bacteria cause a pyogenic liver abscess
Parasites cause an amebic liver abscess
Fungi cause a fungal liver abscess
The infection may have:
Spread to your liver from other structures in your belly (abdomen), such as the gallbladder, bile ducts, bowels, or appendix
Traveled in your bloodstream to your liver from more distant areas of the body
Happened after surgery or an injury to your liver
Symptoms of liver abscess
Symptoms of a liver abscess may take 2 to 4 weeks to appear. They may include:
Fever, chills, sweats
General discomfort or sick feeling
Pain in the upper right part of the belly
Nausea, vomiting, or both
Diarrhea, constipation, or both
Chest pain or shoulder pain
Yellowish eyes and skin (jaundice)
Treatment for liver abscess
Treatment depends on the type of liver abscess that you have. To find this out, your provider may put a needle through your skin into the abscess. A sample of pus will be removed and checked. In many cases, treatment begins in the hospital and continues at home. Treatment may include:
Taking medicines, such as antibiotics. These may be given by an IV (intravenous) line placed in a vein in your arm or hand. Or you may take them by mouth. You may need the medicines for a few weeks or longer.
Draining the pus from the abscess. The doctor may do this using a needle or tube (catheter) put through your skin. In severe cases, the doctor may make a cut (incision) through your skin to reach your liver.
Having imaging tests. In many cases, your healthcare provider will order follow-up tests of your liver after treatment. This is often done by ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI.
Possible complications of liver abscess
These can include:
Burst (ruptured) abscess
Infection spreading into other parts of the body such as the belly, lungs, heart, brain, and eyes
When to call your healthcare provider
Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these:
Symptoms, such as fever or pain, that don’t get better with treatment or get worse
Yellowish skin or eyes (jaundice)
New symptoms, such as trouble breathing
March 21, 2017
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Images Reviewed by Staywell medical art team.,Lehrer, Jennifer K, MD,Ziegler, Olivia, MS, PA