Abscess in and on the stomach – How dangerous is that?

Of all abscesses, intraabdominal abscesses, i.e. abscesses that form in the abdominal cavity, are among the most common. Depending on the location of the abscess cavity, a distinction is made between subphrenic abscesses, which are located just below the diaphragm, and subhepatic abscesses, which are located just below the liver. Furthermore, one distinguishes so-called loop abscesses, which form in the small intestine.

Abscesses that lie directly next to the colon would be called paracolic or retrocolic (if they lie behind the colon). Basically any organ of the abdominal cavity can also form an abscess. Liver, spleen and pancreatic abscesses can often be found.

Is a belly abscess dangerous?

An abscess is by definition an encapsulated collection of pus. As long as the pus in this capsule is literally “encapsulated” from its surroundings, it is no longer dangerous. Unless the abscess is squeezing out vital structures, such as the large abdominal vessels.

However, in the case of an abscess in the abdomen, there is a risk that it will burst and the pus will freely enter the abdominal cavity and with it the pathogens. This can lead to an inflammatory reaction in the abdomen with subsequent peritonitis. In the worst case, the pathogens enter the blood and “blood poisoning” (sepsis) occurs.

Cause of an abscess on the abdomen

The cause of intra-abdominal abscesses is in many cases late complications after surgery. Wherever incisions, sutures or injections are made, bacteria (despite a sterile environment) can enter the surgical field in addition to air. If the bacteria settle in soft tissue, fluid can form. In addition, increased granulocyte migration due to the increased bacteria can lead to the formation of pus at this site, which then fills an abscess cavity. However, abscesses can also lead to adhesions after their formation and then to complaints (e.g. intestinal congestion).

Symptoms of abdominal abscess

In many cases, however, especially in the case of large abscesses, the increased immune reaction leads to a deterioration of the general condition with chills and fever. The difficulty lies in finding the cause of the deterioration in the general condition in a hitherto unknown abscess formation. Especially after operations with subsequent fever development, besides a wound infection, abscess formation must always be considered. Abscesses can also occur repeatedly, therefore it is recommended to prevent abscesses in everyday life. How you can prevent abscesses, you can read here: What is the best way to prevent an abscess?

Diagnosis of an abscess on the abdomen

First, the type of inflammation is usually detected by a blood test. Thus an increased CRP and leukocyte value but also an increased procalcitonin value speaks for a bacterial event. Sometimes patients also report pain at the location of the abscess. An ultrasound can make an abscess visible. If the site is so covered or the abscess is so small that it cannot be seen with an ultrasound, a computer tomography can provide a diagnosis.