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Pancreatic abscess

Definition

A pancreatic abscess is a cavity of pus within the pancreas.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Pancreatic abscesses develop in patients with pancreatic pseudocysts that become infected.

Symptoms

Signs and tests

Patients with pancreatic abscesses usually have had pancreatitis. However, the complication often takes 7 or more days to develop.

Symptoms usually include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever

Signs of an abscess can be seen on:

Treatment

It may be possible to drain the abscess through the skin (percutaneous). Surgery to drain the abscess and remove dead tissue is often needed.

Expectations (prognosis)

How the person does depends on how severe the infection is. The death rate from undrained pancreatic abscesses is very high.

Complications

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if you have persistent abdominal pain with fever or other signs of a pancreatic abscess, particularly if you have recently had a pancreatic pseudocyst or pancreatitis.

Prevention

Adequate drainage of a pancreatic pseudocyst may help prevent some cases of pancreatic abscess. However, in many cases the disorder is not preventable.

References

Owyang C. Pancreatitis. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap 147.

Review Date: 1/20/2010
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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