Cerebral Abscess: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis And Treatment Of Brain Abscess

What Is Brain Abscess? Dr Praveen Gupta shares everything related to this inflammation and collection of infected material in the brain.

Tavishi Dogra
Written by: Tavishi DograPublished at: Feb 09, 2021Updated at: Feb 09, 2021
Cerebral Abscess: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis And Treatment Of Brain Abscess

What is Brain Abscess? A cerebral/brain abscess is a collection of pus or infected material which develops in response to an infection. Swelling or abscess occurs when a massive amount of fluid accumulates in any part of the brain. Cerebral abscess is a severe and life-threatening condition which causes the brain to become swollen (due to injury or inflammation). A brain abscess usually is operated using a blend of medications – either antifungals or antibiotics. Surgery options are either simple aspiration (draining the pus through a hole in the skull) or craniotomy (opening the head and removing the abscess entirely). What causes brain abscess? A brain abscess is most expected to rise from a fungal or bacterial infection in some part of the brain. When the bacteria or fungi infect part of the brain, inflammation, and swelling takes place. In these circumstances, the abscess will consist of dead and active white blood cells, organisms, and the infected brain cells that cause the problem. Lung and heart infections are among the most frequent causes of brain abscesses. However, brain abscesses can also begin from a sinus or ear infection, or even an abscessed sabre-tooth.

What are the symptoms of brain abscess?

The symptoms of a brain abscess include the following:

symptoms of brain abscess

  • Changes in mental cases include irritability or confusion, slow thought processes, poor responsiveness, mental focus, lethargy and drowsiness. Problems with nerve function include slurred speech, muscle weakness, paralysis on one side of the body.
  • Nausea and vomiting: It tends to occur as pressure builds inside the brain. Neck stiffness and encephalitis are some other signs of a cerebral abscess.
  • Headache: It is often located in a single section of the head and cannot be relieved with painkillers.
  • Fever: It may begin suddenly or slowly and usually starts on the side of the abscess.
  • Seizures: A fit could be the first symptom of an abscess.

See your practitioner right away if you have any of the above symptoms of a brain abscess.

Also read: Game of Thrones Star Emilia Clarke Survived Two Brain Aneurysm: What is it?

What is the diagnosis of brain abscess? 

Many of the symptoms closely resemble other diseases or health problems. One should speak to the doctor immediately if they develop any of the symptoms. Diagnosis involves a neurological exam. This exam can reveal any increased pressure within the brain, which can occur from swelling. CT and MRI scans can also be used to diagnose a brain abscess. In some cases, the doctor may need to perform a lumbar puncture or spinal tap. This involves removing a small amount of cerebral spinal fluid to test for any problems other than an infection.

Symptoms that indicate a complication of brain abscess

complication of brain abscess

Some signs that display complications of a brain abscess include:

  • A reoccurring sore: Seek urgent medical aid if you think there is even a little risk your abscess has reoccurred; this is more prevalent in people with cyanotic heart disease or weakened immune system.
  • Brain injury: Moderate or mild brain damage often enhances with time, but critical brain damage is expected to be perpetual; brain damage is more of a risk if diagnosis and therapy are delayed.
  • Meningitis: A life-threatening disease of the shielding membranes around the brain, that requires instant treatment; this is more common in children
  • Swelling: The abscess causes it can disrupt the oxygen and blood supply to the brain. There is a risk of the abscess rupturing too if left untreated.
  • Epilepsy: Where a person has repeated fits (seizures)

Brain Abscess: When should one seek medical advice?

One should immediately seek medical advice when any of the symptoms have been noticed. Call your practitioner if any of the following happen with an abscess:

Brain Abscess

  • You have a sore larger than  half-inch or one cm across
  • The sore becomes more painful and  continues to enlarge
  • The sore is near or on your groin or rectal area
  • If you notice red streaks, that can mean the infection is spreading
  • You may develop a fever or may have any of the above symptoms

Also read: What Is Aneurysm? Here Are Its Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis And Treatment

What is the treatment of brain abscess? 

Before a brain/cerebral abscess has become localized and encapsulated, measures to control increasing intracranial pressure accompanied by antimicrobial therapy is essential. Once an abscess has developed, drainage or surgical excision combined with prolonged antibiotics (typically four to eight week) remains the operation of choice.

  • Treatment involves surgery and medication. The doctor may drain and open the abscess.
  • The region around the abscess will be anaesthetized with medication. It is usually challenging to numb the area thoroughly, but local anaesthesia can make the procedure painless.
  • Sterile sheets/towels will be placed around the area will be covered with an antiseptic solution.
  • The veteran will cut open the abscess and drain it of debris and pus.
  • Once the sore has removed, the doctor may inject some packing into the remaining cavity to allow the infection to continue to drain. It may be kept open for one or two days.
  • One will be given instructions about home care, and a bandage will be then placed over the packing.
  • After the abscess is drained most people start to feel better immediately
  • If one is still experiencing pain, the doctor may prescribe pain pills for home use over the next 1-2 days. Usually, one is sent home with oral antibiotics.

cerebral abscess

Here are some FAQs related to brain or cerebral abscess

  • Can you recover from a brain abscess surgery? Most people need a further six to twelve weeks rest before they are fit enough to return to full-time education or work. After surgery for a cerebral abscess, avoid any contact sport where there is a risk of injury to the skull, such as rugby, football or boxing.
  • What antibiotics treat brain abscess? Treat all brain/cerebral abscesses with antibiotics such as cefotaxime plus or ceftriaxone, metronidazole if clinicians suspect vancomycin and Bacteroides species, typically followed by CT-guided surgical drainage or stereotactic aspiration.
  • How to prevent Brain Abscess? A brain abscess is a severe medical condition. Prevention is important. One can lower the risk by monitoring any conditions that can cause a brain abscess. It is a must to call the doctor at the first sign of a brain abscess.
  • How do you treat a head abscess at home? If the abscess is small, applying warm compresses four times daily for about 30 minutes to the area may help. Please do not try to drain the abscess by pressing or squeezing on it.
  • What is the expected duration of Brain Abscess? Antimicrobial therapy for a brain abscess is generally six to eight weeks long because of the prolonged time needed to close abscess space and for brain tissue to repair. 
  • Can a brain abscess kill you? A brain abscess can be fatal! If the cerebral abscess is left untreated, it can cause permanent brain damage.
risk of developing brain abscess
  • Who is at risk of developing brain abscess? Approximately anyone can get a brain abscess, but some people are at a greater risk than others. Some disorders, conditions and diseases that raise your risk include:
  • People who have a compromised immune system
  • Ones with cancer and other chronic illnesses
  • The ones who have a congenital heart disease
  • People with chronic sinus 

(With inputs from Dr Praveen Gupta, Director and Head Neurology, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurgaon)

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