A pancreatic abscess is an area filled with pus within the pancreas.
Pancreatic abscesses develop in people who have:
- Pancreatic pseudocysts
- Severe pancreatitis that becomes infected
- Abdominal mass
- Abdominal pain
- Inability to eat
- Nausea and vomiting
Exams and Tests
Most people with pancreatic abscesses have had pancreatitis. However, the complication often takes 7 or more days to develop.
Signs of an abscess can be seen on:
- CT scan of the abdomen
- MRI of the abdomen
- Ultrasound of the abdomen
Blood culture will show high white blood cell count.
It may be possible to drain the abscess through the skin (percutaneous). Abscess drainage can be done through an endoscope using endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) in some cases. Surgery to drain the abscess and remove dead tissue is often needed.
How well a person does depends on how severe the infection is. The death rate from undrained pancreatic abscesses is very high.
Complications may include:
- Multiple abscesses
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Contact your health care provider if you have:
- Abdominal pain with fever
- Other signs of a pancreatic abscess, especially if you have recently had a pancreatic pseudocyst or pancreatitis
Draining a pancreatic pseudocyst may help prevent some cases of pancreatic abscess. However, in many cases, the disorder is not preventable.
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Law R, Baron TH. Endoscopic treatment of pancreatic disease. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease: Pathophysiology/Diagnosis/Management. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 61.
Van Buren G, Fisher WE. Acute and chronic pancreatitis. In: Kellerman RD, Rakel DP, eds. Conn's Current Therapy 2022. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:169-176.
Last reviewed on: 10/26/2021
Reviewed by: Michael M. Phillips, MD, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.