Intraspinal abscess (collection of pus)

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An abscess is a localized infection, usually caused by a bacterium, that has been walled off by a protective lining called a pyogenic membrane. Abscess formation is a defense mechanism designed to prevent the spread of the infective organism to other parts of the body.

Superficial abscesses usually are painful, swollen, and warm to touch (palpation); the skin overlying the abscess may appear reddened. Although an abscess may occur in any organ or tissue, common sites include the breast (mammary abscess), gums (dental abscess), armpit, groin, and perineal area (e. g. , Bartholin abscess, pilonidal abscess). Less common sites include the liver, lung, gastrointestinal tract, kidney, spleen, pancreas, brain, and spinal cord; in these cases, the infective organism usually is transported through the bloodstream (hematogenous spread) to the affected organ. Abscesses are classified according to location, as follows: in the abdominal cavity (intraperitoneal abscess), near the kidney or spine (retroperitoneal abscess), or within abdominal organs (visceral abscess).

Causes and Risk factors

The abscess contains pus made up of destroyed tissue cells, microorganisms (dead and alive), and white blood cells (leukocytes) that have been carried to the area to fight the infection. Whether the abscess enlarges or subsides depends on whether the microorganisms or the leukocytes gain the upper hand. Fungi or single-celled parasites called amoeba also can cause abscesses. Abscesses may form in reaction to a puncture wound, a foreign body (e. g. , a splinter), or an obstructed gland or follicle.

Diagnosis and Treatment

If the internal abscess is small, your surgeon may be able to drain it using a fine needle. Depending on the location of the abscess, this may be carried out using either local or general anaesthetic. If your internal abscess is too large to be drained with a needle, or if needle drainage has not been effective in removing all of the pus, you may need to have surgery to remove the pus.


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