Brain Abscess

Also known as: cerebral abscess, CNS abscess

What is a brain abscess?

A brain abscess is a localized brain infection where the material from the inflammation (pus and cells) has collected and been walled off. If left untreated, it can cause a number of problems.


What causes brain abscess?

Brain abscesses can result from an infection with bacteria (most commonly), fungi or viruses. These organisms can enter the brain through a wound, or an infection close by (like an ear infection) or spread through the blood from elsewhere in the body. Having compromised immunity, other infections, shunts from the brain cavity or a chronic disease like cancer, diabetes or congenital heart disease can make developing a brain abscess more likely to occur.


What are the symptoms of brain abscess?

Symptoms depend on the age of the infant/child and on the position of the abscess in the brain. Symptoms in infants and young children include fever, a bulging soft spot on the head, sleepiness, a high- pitched cry, poor feeding and vomiting. Older children can present with fever, headaches, speech problems, seizures, changes in vision, vomiting, weakness, loss of sensation, trouble with language, confusion, sleepiness, loss of muscle function and other changes in mental status. These may develop slowly over the course of several weeks or come on suddenly.


What are brain abscess care options?

If the abscess is small or the symptoms are mild, it can often be treated with antibiotics which will shrink the abscess (as well as medications to treat symptoms present). Large abscesses that are putting pressure on the brain may need to be drained or removed surgically. Long term neurological rehabilitation may be required.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: 5/2/2017 2:58:30 PM

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