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Liver Abcesses

What are liver abcesses?

Liver abscesses are collections of thick fluid or pus containing blood, dead cells and germs and develop after infections affecting the liver, bile ducts or other sites in the body. Most are caused by bacteria, although other sorts of germs can be responsible. Though rare, they are much more likely to develop in people with diabetes.

Symptoms

Symptoms of their development may include fever, loss of appetite, weight loss and pain in the upper abdomen. The diagnosis is most often made though radiological imaging tests such as ultrasound, CT or MRI scanning. Sometimes these techniques are used to guide a procedure to sample the fluid inside the abscess to confirm the diagnosis and the germ responsible.

Treatment

Treatment for bacterial abscesses is usually with antibiotics, which may need to be given intravenously and often require hospitalisation. Treatment courses are usually many weeks long and repeat scanning may be required to confirm improvement of the abscess. If antibiotics alone are not effective then a drainage catheter may be placed with radiological guidance, and very occasionally a surgical drainage procedure is required.

Rarer causes of abscesses include parasites such as Amoebia, which develops in people who have Amoebic dysentery or intestinal infection, and is treated similarly to bacterial abscesses - though different antimicrobial drugs are required. Hydatid disease is a very rare parasitic infection affecting the liver or other organs, with appearances somewhat similar to a bacterial abscess. Its treatment is specialised and specific drugs are required and drainage or surgery avoided.