Liver Abscess

What is a liver abscess?

A liver abscess is a collection of pus in the liver caused by bacteria, fungi, or parasites. You may have more than one abscess. The liver makes enzymes and bile that help digest food and gives your body energy. It also removes harmful material from your body, such as alcohol and other chemicals.


What increases my risk for liver abscess?

  • Traveling to places where infection is common

  • Age older than 70 years

  • Medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, or a weak immune system

  • Medicines, such as steroids or chemotherapy

  • Alcohol

  • Poor nutrition

What are the signs and symptoms of liver abscess?

  • Pain in the upper right part of the abdomen, just below the ribs

  • A cough, or feeling tired and weak

  • Fever and night sweats

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Loss of appetite

  • Yellowing of the skin or the whites of the eyes

How is liver abscess diagnosed?

  • Blood tests will show which germ is causing your infection.

  • An x-ray, ultrasound, CT, or MRI may show the liver abscess. You may be given contrast dye to help the abscess show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.

How is liver abscess treated?

  • Medicine can help treat an infection caused by bacteria, a fungus, or a parasite.

  • Needle aspiration is a procedure to drain fluid with a needle.

  • Catheter drainage is a procedure to drain fluid through a catheter inserted into an incision.

  • Surgery may be needed if your abscess is large or if you have more than one. Surgery may also be needed if your abscess bursts.

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish.

  • Do not drink alcohol. Alcohol can damage your liver and increase your risk for another abscess. A drink of alcohol is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of liquor.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever.

  • You have a cough or feel weak and achy.

  • You have a rash.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You have sudden trouble breathing.

  • You are vomiting or have seizures.

  • You have pain in your abdomen or it feels fuller than normal.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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