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Pancreatic abscess

A pancreatic abscess is an area filled with pus within the pancreas.

Causes

Pancreatic abscesses develop in people who have:

Symptoms

Exams and Tests

Most people with pancreatic abscesses have had pancreatitis. However, the complication often takes 7 or more days to develop.

Signs of an abscess can be seen on:

Blood culture will show high white blood cell count.

Treatment

It may be possible to drain the abscess through the skin (percutaneous). Abscess drainage can be done through an endoscope using endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) in some cases. Surgery to drain the abscess and remove dead tissue is often needed.

Outlook (Prognosis)

How well a person does depends on how severe the infection is. The death rate from undrained pancreatic abscesses is very high.

Possible Complications

Complications may include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have:

  • Abdominal pain with fever
  • Other signs of a pancreatic abscess, especially if you have recently had a pancreatic pseudocyst or pancreatitis

Prevention

Draining a pancreatic pseudocyst may help prevent some cases of pancreatic abscess. However, in many cases, the disorder is not preventable.

References

Barshak MB. Pancreatic infection. 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 78.

Forsmark CE. Pancreatitis. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 144.

Van Buren G, Fisher WE. Acute and chronic pancreatitis. In: Kellerman RD, Bope ET, eds. Conn's Current Therapy 2018. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:163-170.

Review Date 10/25/2017

Updated by: Michael M. Phillips, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.