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Liver abscess

Medical reviewer:Dr Ann Nainan
Author:Dr Lauretta Ihonor
Last reviewed: 01/12/2020
Medically reviewed

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In this article

A liver abscess is a pocket of pus in the liver. It’s usually caused by a bacterial infection, but can also be caused by a fungal or parasitic infection.

There are many ways to develop a liver abscess, including:

  • having an infection that spreads to the liver through the bile ducts or liver’s blood vessels
  • liver injury
  • a nearby infection that directly spreads into the liver

You may have 1 or more liver abscesses.

Symptoms of liver abscess

If you have a liver abscess, you may develop symptoms, including:

  • fever and chills
  • tummy pain and tenderness – usually in the upper right side
  • weight loss – without trying to lose weight
  • feeling generally unwell
  • tiredness
  • feeling sick or being sick
  • cough and shortness of breath
  • right shoulder pain
  • skin and whites of eyes turning yellow (jaundice)

See a doctor if you have, or think you may have, a liver abscess.

How a liver abscess is diagnosed

Your doctor may suspect a liver abscess based on your symptoms, medical history and after looking at and/or feeling your tummy area (abdomen). They may also do blood tests,

imaging scans (CT or ultrasound) and take a sample of pus from the abscess using a small needle.

How to treat a liver abscess

If you have a liver abscess, it may be treated with antibiotics and by draining the pus. This can be done in several ways, including putting a needle or a small tube (catheter) or surgery.


  1. Liver abscess - Symptoms, diagnosis and treatment | BMJ Best Practice US [Internet]. 2020 [cited 1 December 2020]. Available here.
  2. Knott L. Liver Cysts and Abscesses [Internet]. 2020 [cited 1 December 2020]. Available here.
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