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    Pyogenic liver abscess

    Liver abscess; Bacterial liver abscess

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


    There are many potential causes of liver abscesses, including:

    • Abdominal infection such as appendicitis, diverticulitis, or a perforated bowel
    • Infection in the blood
    • Infection of the bile draining tubes
    • Recent endoscopy of the bile draining tubes
    • Trauma that damages the liver

    The most common bacteria that cause liver abscesses are:

    • Bacteroides
    • Enterococcus
    • Escherichia coli
    • Klebsiella pneumoniae
    • Staphylococcus aureus
    • Streptococcus

    In most cases, more than one type of bacteria is found.


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

    Exams and Tests

    Tests may include:

    • Abdominal CT scan
    • Abdominal ultrasound
    • Bilirubin blood test
    • Blood culture for bacteria
    • Complete blood count (CBC)
    • Liver biopsy
    • Liver function tests


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

    Outlook (Prognosis)

    This condition can be life threatening some patients. 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:

    • Any symptoms of this disorder
    • Severe abdominal pain
    • Confusion or decreased consciousness
    • Persistent high fever
    • Other new symptoms during or after treatment


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


    Reddy KR. Bacterial, parasitic, fungal and granulomatous liver diseases. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 360.

    Sifri CD, Madoff LC. Infections of the liver and biliary system. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone;2009:chap 72.


    • Digestive system


    • Pyogenic abscess


    • Digestive system organs


      • Digestive system


      • Pyogenic abscess


      • Digestive system organs


      A Closer Look

        Self Care

          Tests for Pyogenic liver abscess

          Review Date: 8/15/2012

          Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. 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. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

          The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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          St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
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