Diagnosis | Abscess on the neck


In the case of an abscess on the neck, a doctor should be consulted in any case, since only in rare cases a healing without medical help takes place. The diagnosis of an abscess at an advanced stage can be made solely by taking a medical history and a physical examination of the person affected. The typical symptoms of an abscess, together with the palpation, are usually sufficient to make a diagnosis.

However, it may be necessary to use diagnostic imaging methods to determine the extent of the abscess. For example, an ultrasound examination, but also an examination with an MRI or equipment that uses X-rays, can provide information about the size of the abscess cavity and the structures it borders on. An examination of the blood can confirm the presence of an inflammation, but usually does not give any indication of which pathogen is the cause of the abscess. To determine the pathogen, the pus in the abscess cavity must be examined. With the detection of the pathogen, a specific antibiotic therapy can be carried out if necessary.

Therapy of an abscess on the neck

The therapy of an abscess depends on the size and localization of the inflammation. For example, in the case of superficial abscesses in the early stages, a cure can usually be achieved by systemic administration of antibiotics. In many cases, however, an antibacterial therapy with antibiotics is not sufficient to treat an abscess on the neck adequately.

This is because the abscess cavity is not connected to blood vessels, which is why even systemic antibiotics cannot prevent the bacteria from multiplying. Local antibiotics should not be used at all as they have no chance of containing the inflammation sufficiently. Also the expression of the abscess should be avoided as there is a danger of an opening to the inside and thus a blood poisoning (sepsis).

For this reason, abscesses on the neck are often surgically opened. Here the pus is flushed out of the abscess cavity, usually under general anesthesia, and a so-called drainage is placed in the cavity. In this way, the cavity can also be rinsed after the operation until complete healing has occurred. In the neck, great care must be taken to ensure that surrounding structures are spared during a surgical opening. The anatomical narrowness of the neck of many important structures makes it difficult to operate on an abscess in the neck area.


The prognosis for abscesses is generally very good if the inflammation is treated adequately. Above all, it is important that the therapy is carried out as early as possible. This is especially important in the case of abscesses in the neck area, since many vital structures run along the neck which must not be squeezed.

Especially when fever and chills occur, it is important to consult a doctor quickly. The danger of blood poisoning (sepsis) is present in all abscesses and worsens the prognosis immensely. If the use of antibiotics is not promising, a surgical opening of the abscess should be considered as soon as possible, as in many cases this is the only alternative treatment option.