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Liver abscess

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

All of Healthily's articles undergo medical safety checks to verify that the information is medically safe. View more details in our safety page, or read our editorial policy.

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.

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