What is Brain abscess?
A collection of pus caused by a bacterial infection in the brain or the outermost of three membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord.
Brain abscess signs and symptoms
- Pain in the back, if the infection is in the covering of the spinal cord.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Weakness, numbness or paralysis of one side of the body.
- Irregular gait.
- Confusion or delirium.
- Speaking difficulty.
The primary source of bacterial infection that causes a brain or epidural abscess often cannot be found. These three sources are the most common:
- An infection that spreads from an infected skull, such as in osteomyelitis, mastoiditis or sinusitis.
- An infection that is introduced by a skull injury.
- An infection that spreads through the bloodstream from other infected organs, such as the lungs, skin or heart valves.
Risk increases with
- Head injury.
- Illness that has lowered resistance, especially diabetes mellitus.
- Recent infection, especially around the nose, eyes and face.
- Immunosuppressed patient due to illness (AIDS) or medications.
- Intravenous drug abuse.
- Seek medical advice for any infection in your body, especially one around the nose or face, to prevent its spread (such as ear infection or dental abscess).
- Wear protective headgear when engaging in any activity where risk of head injury is possible.
Usually curable with early diagnosis and treatment.
- Seizures, coma and death without treatment.
- Permanent brain damage.
Brain abscess treatment
- Diagnostic tests may include laboratory studies such as blood studies, spinal-fluid studies; other tests such as EEG, computed tomography (CT scan), X-rays of the skull.
- Intensive care monitoring required.
- Medical or surgical treatment will depend on location of abscess. Normally requires antibiotic therapy and surgery to drain the abscess. Other treatment may include intravenous fluids and mechanical breathing support.
- Additional information available from the Brain Research Foundation.
- Antibiotics for 4 to 6 weeks to fight infection.
- Anticonvulsants to prevent seizures.
- Following surgery, corticosteroids to reduce swelling (edema).
While in the hospital, you will need bed rest. After a 2 to 3 week recovery you should be as active as your strength and feeling of well-being allow.
Intravenous fluids and feedings are usually necessary during hospitalization because of swallowing difficulty. After treatment, no special diet is necessary.
Notify your physician if
- You or a family member has any symptoms of a brain or epidural abscess.
- Fever rises to 101°F (38.3° C) or higher.
- New, unexplained symptoms develop. Drugs used in treatment may produce side effects.
Last updated 31 March 2018