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What is brain abscess and how to identify

Cerebral abscess is a collection of pus, surrounded by a capsule, located in the brain tissue. It arises due to infections by bacteria, fungi, mycobacteria or parasites, and can cause symptoms such as headache, fever, vomiting and neurological changes, such as loss of strength or seizures, depending on its size and location.

Generally, brain abscess appears as a serious complication of an existing infection in the body, such as otitis, deep sinusitis or dental infection, for example, either by the spread of the infection or by the spread through the blood, but it also happens as a result of a contamination by brain surgery or trauma to the skull.

Treatment is done with drugs that fight the causative microorganism, such as antibiotics or antifungals, and in many cases it is also necessary to perform surgical drainage of the accumulated pus, favoring the cure and a faster recovery.

Table of Contents

Main symptoms

Symptoms of brain abscess vary according to the microorganism causing the person’s immunity, as well as the location and size of the lesion. Some of the main symptoms include:

  • Headache;
  • Nausea and vomiting;
  • Convulsions;
  • Localized neurological changes, such as changes in vision, difficulties in speech or loss of strength or sensitivity in parts of the body, for example;
  • Neck stiffness.

In addition, if it causes brain swelling or is very bulky, the abscess can also cause signs and symptoms of intracranial hypertension, such as sudden vomiting and changes in consciousness. Understand better what intracranial hypertension is and what causes it .

How to confirm

The diagnosis of cerebral abscess is made by the doctor, based on clinical evaluation, physical examination and request for tests such as computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging, which show typical changes in the phases of the disease, such as brain inflammation, areas of necrosis and the collection of pus. surrounded by a capsule.

Blood tests such as blood count, inflammation markers and blood cultures can help identify the infection and the causative agent.

Who is most at risk

Generally, a brain abscess is due to an infection that already exists in the body, and people who are more likely to develop this complication include:

  • People with compromised immunity, such as AIDS patients, transplanted, using immunosuppressive drugs or malnourished, for example;
  • Users of illegal injectable drugs,
  • People with respiratory infections such as sinusitis, ear infections, mastoiditis or pneumonia;
  • People with acute endocarditis;
  • People with dental infections;
  • Diabetics;
  • People who have had lung infections like empyema or abscesses in the lung. Find out how lung abscess is formed and what to do ;
  • Victims of head trauma or who have undergone cranial surgery, by direct introduction of bacteria into the region.

Some of the microorganisms that usually cause brain abscess are bacteria such as staphylococci or streptococci, fungi such as Aspergillus or Candida , parasites such as Toxoplasma gondii , which causes toxoplasmosis, or even the mycobacterium tuberculosis , which causes tuberculosis .

How the treatment is done

The treatment of brain abscess is done with the use of potent antimicrobials, such as antibiotics or antifungals, in the vein, to fight the causative microorganism. In addition, drainage of the abscess in the operating room is usually indicated by a neurosurgeon.

It is still necessary to remain hospitalized for a few more days, to observe the clinical improvement and follow-up of the exams.

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