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Pyogenic liver abscess

Pyogenic liver abscess is a pus-filled area in the liver.

Causes

There are many possible causes of liver abscesses, including:

A number of common bacteria may cause liver abscesses. In most cases, more than one type of bacteria is found.

Symptoms

Symptoms of liver abscess may include:

  • Chest pain (lower right)
  • Pain in the right upper abdomen (more common) or throughout the abdomen (less common)
  • Clay-colored stools
  • Dark urine
  • Fever, chills, nightsweats
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Yellow skin (jaundice)

Exams and Tests

Tests may include:

Treatment

Treatment usually consists of placing a tube through the skin to drain the abscess. Less often, surgery is needed. You will also receive antibiotics for about 4 to 6 weeks. Sometimes, antibiotics alone can cure the infection.

Outlook (Prognosis)

This condition can be life threatening. The risk for death is higher in people who have many liver abscesses.

Possible Complications

Life-threatening sepsis can develop.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have:

Prevention

Prompt treatment of abdominal and other infections may reduce the risk of developing a liver abscess, but most cases are not preventable.

Alternative Names

Liver abscess; Bacterial liver abscess

References

Kim AY, Chung RT. Bacterial, parasitic, and fungal infections of the liver, including liver abscesses. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 84.

Sifri CD, Madoff LC. Infections of the liver and biliary system (liver abscess, cholangitis, cholecystitis). In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, Updated Edition. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 77.

Review Date 7/31/2016

Updated by: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.