When there is a pus-filled cavity or mass in the liver, it is called liver abscess. The liver assists in the digestive process by producing bile and hormones and cleaning toxins from the blood. It also performs the essential function of breaking down food into energy. A liver abscess may be a single lesion or multiple lesions. It usually occurs after a bacterial infection. Intake of prescriptive antibiotics may kill the infection. In more severe cases, a surgery helps to drain the pus which has accumulated in the liver. An abscess is usually associated with swelling and inflammation in the surrounding areas and abdomen.
There are three types of liver abscesses: Pyogenic liver abscess which is most often polymicrobial; amoebic liver abscess and fungal abscess often caused due to Candida species.
Liver Abscess Causes
Pyogenic liver abscess
- Pancreatic cancer
- Colon cancer
- Ruptured appendix : bacteria emerging from the rupture can form an abscess
- Diverticulitis – inflammatory bowel disease or a perforated bowel
- Septicaemia – blood infection
- Trauma to the liver due to accident or injury
Amoebic liver abscess
Entamoeba histolytica – the parasite that causes amebiasis or amebic dysentery
Eating contaminated food and drinking contaminated water
Major bacterial causes for liver abscess are :
- Streptococcus and enterococcus
- Staphylococcus aureus
- Anaerobes and bacteroides
- Klebsiella pneumoniae
Liver Abscess Symptoms
There are many combinations of the liver abscess symptoms:
- Abdominal pain and clay colored stools
- Loss of appetite
- Dark urine
- Pleuritis – painful chest upon breathing
- Yellowing of skin – jaundice
- High fever
- Jerky movements
- Shortness of breath
- Delirium and change in mental behaviour
Liver Abscess Diagnosis
Blood tests will show elevated white blood count and high neutrophil levels indicating infection.
Computed tomography is conducted to locate the abscess.
A culture test will identify the bacteria responsible for the infection.
Abdominal ultrasound and x-ray
An ultrasound helps view the abscess present in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen. A contrast dye will reflect the abscess better in the pictures.