What is Brain Abscess?

A brain abscess or brain abscess is a collection of pus in the brain. The cause is a limited and locally fixed infection in the brain. Without antibiotic therapy, the death rate from brain abscess would be very high.

What is a brain abscess?

According to abbreviationfinder.org, a brain abscess, or brain abscess, is a local infection of the brain that causes a collection of pus that encapsulates into an abscess.

If certain parts of the brain tissue become inflamed, a body cavity forms in the core of the focus of inflammation, which is caused by the local tissue melting down. The inflammation causes pus to form, which is collected in this newly created cavity. When the collection of pus encapsulates, what is known as an abscess is formed.

A brain abscess occurs very rarely with a probability of 1 in 100,000. Brain abscesses most commonly occur in adults between the ages of 20 and 30. Children are most commonly affected between the ages of 4 and 7.

Usually only a single brain abscess forms in the cerebrum. Multiple abscesses and cerebellar abscesses are rare. In any case, a brain abscess must be treated medically.


Brain abscesses result from infections. As a rule, these are infections of bacterial origin. In half of all brain abscesses caused by bacterial infections, the bacteria come from infections in other nearby areas of the body.

The origin of a brain abscess can therefore be diseases such as middle ear infections or sinus infections that have not been properly cured. The other half of all abscesses are often caused by infections from distant parts of the body when bacteria travel from there to the brain via the bloodstream. Injuries to the brain caused by accidents or operations can also lead to brain abscesses.

A possible cause, albeit with a very low probability, are fungi or other non-bacterial pathogens. For this to happen, however, other factors that favor a brain abscess must occur at the same time, such as an already weakened immune system.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

Symptoms of a brain abscess depend on which area of ​​the brain the abscess is in. The size of the abscess also plays a major role. Initially, the symptoms tend to be non-specific. Headaches, nausea and vomiting are some of the main complaints.

These symptoms are produced by the increased pressure emanating from the abscess itself and cerebral edema. Therefore, they are also referred to as so-called intracranial pressure symptoms. Other symptoms depend on the location of the brain abscess. This can lead to disturbances of consciousness as well as so-called cerebral focal symptoms. Cerebral focal symptoms include visual disturbances, speech disorders, swallowing disorders or paralysis.

Sometimes a brain abscess is also accompanied by epileptic seizures and fever. About 50 percent of all those affected suffer from fever. A brain abscess is generally a life-threatening condition. This allows the abscess capsule to press on neighboring regions of the brain. How dangerous this pressure is depends on which bodily functions are controlled there.

It is also possible for the inflammation to spread to other areas of the brain. A particularly life-threatening condition occurs when there is inflammation in the space between the dura mater and the periosteum of the skull. However, this is rarely the case.

Overall, the mortality rate from brain abscesses has dropped to five to ten percent today. In severe cases, however, long-term damage such as epileptic seizures and other neurological problems are possible even after successful treatment.

Diagnosis & History

A brain abscess develops at different rates depending on the cause and physical condition. The incubation period can therefore be as little as a few weeks in the event of an accident, up to several months or even years.

A brain abscess can cause a number of different symptoms. Due to the pressure that a brain abscess exerts on the surrounding brain regions, a brain abscess is most often manifested by a massive headache, which is often accompanied by nausea, vomiting and fever. Depending on where the brain abscess is located, it can also trigger epileptic seizures, and occasionally speech, vision, and movement disorders.

A so-called edema often develops after a brain abscess due to the increased accumulation of fluid in the immediate vicinity. When a brain abscess is suspected, a laboratory blood test is usually done first to check for possible signs of a brain abscess. These include increased levels of inflammation with antibodies against the pathogens that are causing the inflammation and which can be detected in the blood.

If the suspicion of a brain abscess is confirmed, imaging methods are used. Brain abscesses can be made visible and thus confirmed with computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging ( MRI ).


A brain abscess is a very serious medical condition that can be fatal if left untreated. For this reason, a brain abscess must always be evaluated and treated by a doctor. This disease leads to a restriction of bodily functions. However, which regions and functions are affected depends on the severity of the infection.

In most cases, however, those affected suffer from headaches and vomiting. Nausea and not infrequently migraine attacks also occur. Without treatment, sensory disturbances and paralysis occur, which can also lead to epileptic seizures. The patient’s vision is also reduced by the brain abscess and there are movement disorders and coordination disorders.

Likewise, the patient’s actions and thinking are limited and general sophistication develops. The quality of life decreases extremely and the patient is dependent on the help of other people due to the disease. Without treatment, life expectancy is drastically reduced. The nervous system is irreversibly damaged. The treatment itself is carried out without complications with the help of antibiotics. Early treatment can prevent consequential damage.

When should you go to the doctor?

If you keep having massive headaches and nausea, you may have a brain abscess. A doctor’s visit is recommended if the symptoms persist for more than a week and cannot be traced back to a specific cause. If the symptoms intensify rapidly and develop into a pronounced migraine, medical advice is required. The sudden occurrence of epileptic seizures or speech, vision and movement disorders also indicate a serious condition that needs to be clarified.

A brain abscess often occurs in connection with a middle ear or sinus infection that has not been properly treated. Infections in other parts of the body and injuries to the brain caused by surgery or accidents can also cause an abscess in the brain. Anyone who belongs to these risk groups should consult a doctor immediately with the symptoms mentioned. Pregnant women, the elderly and children should always see a doctor if they have persistent headaches and nausea. In addition to the general practitioner, those affected can also speak to a neurologist or a specialist in internal medicine.

Treatment & Therapy

A brain abscess usually has to be removed surgically, but in individual cases it depends on various factors such as the cause, location, size and number of the abscess or abscesses and the condition of the patient.

Brain abscesses in the upper layers of the brain are usually surgically removed as quickly as possible. For brain abscesses in deeper and hard-to-reach areas, there are usually some preparatory measures before surgery. In the first intervention, abscesses are usually punctured via a drill hole, the accumulated pus is drained and the abscess cavity is rinsed. The remaining capsule is then removed in a second procedure.

Accompanying the therapy, the pathogens and the causative infections are also treated in order to prevent the abscess from forming again. If an operation is impossible for various reasons or if several very small abscesses have formed, a purely antibiotic – based treatment method can also be opted for. Due to medical advances, very few brain abscesses are fatal.

Most patients make a full recovery with no permanent damage after a successful abscess removal. In some cases, however, irreparable damage to the nervous system occurs due to the abscesses. Epilepsy is particularly common here. In some cases, brain abscesses also keep coming back.

Outlook & Forecast

When seeking medical care, the prognosis of a brain abscess is favorable. The administration of medication leads to a regression of the pus production and a removal of the accumulated pus. The abscess is usually completely removed in a surgical procedure or by other techniques and the symptoms gradually disappear. If no further complications occur and there are no further health impairments, the patient can normally be discharged from the treatment within a few weeks without any symptoms.

Since an operation is always associated with risks and side effects, there is still a risk of damaging healthy tissue when the abscess is detached. Depending on the location of the injury, this can result in general and specific functional disorders or irreparable damage to the brain.

If the patient refuses medical help, the probability of an early death increases immediately. The accumulation of pus spreads further in the brain and the abscess can significantly increase in size as it develops. In addition to sepsis, the affected person is threatened with the bursting of the surrounding vessels. This is life-threatening. The sufferer may fall into a coma or experience irreparable dysfunction. Thanks to modern medical possibilities, the survival rate for a brain abscess has risen to over 95%.


In order to avoid brain abscesses, infections should be treated and completely cured, especially in the vicinity of the brain but also in all other areas of the body, in order to avoid transmission of the pathogens to the brain. Taking antibiotics until the end of treatment is essential for this. In any case, it is advisable to maintain a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and sufficient exercise. The better the condition of a body, the better it can recover in the event of an illness.


After the surgical removal of a brain abscess, the further course depends on where and how large the abscess was. If the abscess capsule has been completely removed, no damage need remain. It is important for the recovery of the patients that the nervous system has not been damaged. However, epilepsy often occurs after an operation. There is also a risk of a brain abscess occurring again.

Follow-up care after treatment aims to ensure that infections are avoided, which would increase the risk of a recurrence. Patients can work to contain the transmission of pathogens according to medical recommendations. This includes the targeted treatment of infectious diseases. Dangerous bacterial diseases include, for example, inflammation of the paranasal sinuses or the middle ear.

In the case of therapy with antibiotics, those affected should take these drugs consistently and follow the medical instructions. An early termination is not recommended, because the bacteria must be completely combated. With a health-conscious lifestyle, which includes a diet rich in vitamins, those affected also increase their immune system. Exercise also helps the body better manage inflammation and recover.

You can do that yourself

A brain abscess is a collection of pus in the brain. Affected persons with this clinical picture can only take limited options that bring about an improvement. Going to the doctor at an early stage is very important and significant, because this is the only way to ensure a smooth and complete recovery.

After drug and medical treatment, strict bed rest is very important. The strengthening of the immune system in the subsequent healing process should also not be neglected, because this is the only way a brain abscess can heal without any complications. In addition, affected persons can ensure a healthy and balanced diet. This strengthens the entire body and allows it to recover much better and faster in the event of another infection. Thus, only limited measures can be taken in advance that lead to an improvement in an existing brain abscess.

Afterwards, strengthening the immune system is very important. In this way, affected persons can avoid dangerous complications, so that a much more pleasant course of the disease can be expected. In addition, an accurate and early diagnosis is very important so that appropriate treatment can be initiated.

Brain Abscess