Single and multiple pyogenic liver abscesses. Natural history, diagnosis and treatment, with emphasis on percutaneous drainage.
The presenting features, modes of treatment and clinical course were reviewed for 55 patients with pyogenic liver abscess, seen at Duke University Medical Center over a 15-year period. Thirty-three patients had a solitary abscess and 22 had multiple abscesses. Most patients were between the ages of 40 and 60 years. Males predominated, 2.4:1. Major underlying conditions included biliary tract disease, malignancy and colonic disease. Eight patients, each with a solitary abscess, had no identifiable underlying condition. Symptoms and signs were nonspecific: fever, chills, focal abdominal tenderness and hepatomegaly were common. A raised serum alkaline phosphatase level was the most consistent abnormal laboratory finding. CT with contrast enhancement, radioisotope scanning and ultrasonography all accurately defined solitary hepatic abscesses. However, CT scan was more successful than other imaging techniques in detecting multiple abscesses. In seven patients the diagnosis was made only at laparotomy. Overall, a diagnosis of liver abscess was made in 50 living patients (91%). Microorganisms were recovered from pus and/or blood cultures of 44 patients (80%). Most common were enteric gram-negative facultative rods, anaerobic gram-negative rods, and microaerophilic streptococci. Single abscesses were more likely than multiple abscesses to contain more than one organism. All patients received antibiotics; the choice of antibiotic does not appear to be critical provided the regimen has a broad spectrum including activity against anaerobes. Surgical or percutaneous drainage was successful when attempted in all patients with a single abscess, but the outcome was less favorable in those with multiple abscesses. Percutaneous drainage is currently replacing open operative drainage as the method of choice. Overall mortality in patients with single abscesses was 15% (5/33) and in those with multiple abscesses 41% (9/22).
McDonald, MI; Corey, GR; Gallis, HA; Durack, DT
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