Brain abscess

Alternative Names

Abscess – brain; Cerebral abscess; CNS abscess

Definition of Brain abscess

A brain abscess is a collection of immune cells, pus, and other material in the brain, usually from a bacterial or fungal infection.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Brain abscesses commonly occur when bacteria or fungi infect part of the brain. Swelling and irritation (inflammation) develop in response to this infection. Infected brain cells, white blood cells, live and dead bacteria, and fungi collect in an area of the brain. Tissue forms around this area and creates a mass.

Symptoms

Symptoms may develop slowly, over a period of 2 weeks, or they may develop suddenly. They may include:

Signs and tests

A brain and nervous system (neurological) exam will usually show and problems with brain function.

Treatment

A brain abscess is a medical emergency. Pressure inside the skull may become high enough to be life threatening. You will need to stay in the hospital until the condition is stable. Some people may need life support.

Expectations (prognosis)

If untreated, a brain abscess is almost always deadly. With treatment, the death rate is about 10 – 30%. The earlier treatment is received, the better.

Review

David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 9/15/2010

Amebic brain abscess
Brain

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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