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Abscess Main page

Patient Information




Anal Abscess
Appendicular Abscess
Brain Abscess
Breast Abscess
Colon Abscess
Cutaneous Abscess
Liver Abscess
Lung Abscess
Pancreatic Abscess
Retropharyngeal Abscess
Splenic Abscess
Tonsillar and Peritonsillar Abscess

Differential Diagnosis

For patient information click here

Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]:Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Seyedmahdi Pahlavani, M.D. [2]


Abscess is defined as collection of pus in a specific part of body. Abscess can form in any tissues secondary to initial inflammation or trauma. Skin is the most common site for abscess formation. Abscess may be classified based on pathogen. Pathogen is varied depending on abscess' location however, Staphylococcus aureus is the leading cause of abscesses. Secondary to local inflammation and cytokine release, polymorphonuclear cells (PMNs) are the first and the most important responding cells in abscess formation.<ref name="pmid23435331">{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}</ref> Neutrophils, are responsible for phagocytosis. Once the pathogen is opsonized by complement system, it will be recognized by neutrophils and the phagocytosis process will begin. After phagocytosis the bactricidal process will begin by producing superoxide radicals and other reactive oxygen species (ROS).<ref name="pmid15240752">{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}</ref> Conditions that may result in immunosuppresion, such as chronic steroid therapy, chemotherapy, diabetes, cancer, and AIDS are predisposing factors for abscess formation. Diagnosis is based on clinical features, laboratory, and imaging findings. Treatment depends on location and etiology and it is mostly drainage and antibiotics.


Abscesses are caused by many different pathogens based on their anatomical location. The following table summarizes pathogenic causes of abscesses.<ref name="pmid15573356">{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }} </ref><ref name="pmid18039418">{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }} </ref><ref name="pmid1875138">{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }} </ref><ref name="pmid12092281">{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }} </ref><ref name="pmid2235179">{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }} </ref><ref name="pmid14623752">{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }} </ref><ref name="pmid18427007">{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }} </ref><ref name="pmid15573356">{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }} </ref><ref name="pmid18948832">{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }} </ref><ref name="pmid22481424">{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }} </ref><ref name="pmid23520072">{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }} </ref>

Anatomical location Common causes Less common causes Comments
Brain abscess
  • Causes of brain abscess depends on the source of infection.
  • To see a complete list of brain abscesses's causes, click here.
Tonsillar and peritonsillar abscess --
Retropharyngeal abscess
  • Retropharyngeal abscess are usually caused by polymicrobial flora.
  • To see a complete list of retropharyngeal abscess' causes, click here.
Lung Abscess
  • About 90% of the lung abscess is caused by polymicrobial infection.<ref name="pmid28705">{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation

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  • Klebsiella pneumoniae is the more commonly seen in alcoholics.<ref name="pmid15824979">{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation


  • To see a complete list of lung abscess' causes, click here.
Breast Abscess --
Liver abscess Pyogenic To see a complete list of pyogenic liver abscess' causes, click here.
Amoebic -- --
Fungal -- --
Splenic abscess To see a complete list of splenic abscess' causes, click here.
Pancreatic abscess --
Appendicular abscess --
Colonic abscess --
Anal abscess -- --
Cutaneous abscess


Abscesses may be classified based on their location. These are listed below.

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Differential diagnosis[edit]

The following table summarizes differential diagnosis list for different abscesses.

Abscess Common disease Less common disease
Anal abscess
Appendicular abscess
Brain abscess
Breast Abscess
Colonic abscess
Cutaneous abscess
Liver abscess --
Lung Abscess
Pancreatic abscess
  • Infected necrotic pancreas
Retropharyngeal abscess
Splenic abscess
Tonsillar and peritonsillar abscess


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