Brain abscess

Last updated: October 13, 2023

Summarytoggle arrow icon

A brain abscess is a focal, suppurative lesion that may occur in one or more regions of the brain. It may be caused by the direct spread of sinus, ear, and/or dental infections, inoculation of pathogens following open skull fractures, and/or hematogenous spread from infective foci. During the course of the disease, the infected brain tissue softens and is subsequently encapsulated by granulation tissue. Clinical manifestations include headache, fever, neurological deficits, seizures, nausea, vomiting, and other features of raised intracranial pressure. Given these clinical findings, the main differential diagnosis is primary or metastatic brain tumor. Contrast CT reveals an intraparenchymal lesion with a hypodense center and peripheral ring enhancement. Treatment of brain abscesses involves surgical drainage of the abscess followed by systemic antibiotic therapy.

Etiologytoggle arrow icon

Pathophysiologytoggle arrow icon

  • Initial infection: entry of pathogens via contiguous spread, direct inoculation, or hematogenous spread can result in the following [2]
  • Common sites of contiguous spread [3]

Clinical featurestoggle arrow icon

Clinical features depend on the size and location of the lesion. [4]

Diagnosticstoggle arrow icon

Differential diagnosestoggle arrow icon

Other intracranial lesions with ring enhancement:

The differential diagnoses listed here are not exhaustive.

Treatmenttoggle arrow icon

Prognosistoggle arrow icon

  • If treated early
    • High survival rates
    • Low rates of residual neurological sequelae
  • Multiple, deep, ruptured, or inadequately treated abscesses have a poor prognosis.

Referencestoggle arrow icon

  1. Patel K, Clifford DB. Bacterial Brain Abscess. Neurohospitalist. 2014; 4 (4): p.196-204.doi: 10.1177/1941874414540684 . | Open in Read by QxMD
  2. Muzumdar D, Jhawar S, Goel A. Brain abscess: An overview. Int J Surg. 2010.doi: 10.1016/j.ijsu.2010.11.005 . | Open in Read by QxMD
  3. Brain abscess. Updated: January 1, 2017. Accessed: February 20, 2017.
  4. Williams NS, Bulstrode C, O'Connell PR. Bailey & Love's Short Practice of Surgery. CRC Press ; 2013

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