A pancreatic abscess is a cavity of pus within the pancreas.
Pancreatic abscesses develop in patients with pancreatic pseudocysts that become infected.
Signs and tests
Patients with pancreatic abscesses usually have had pancreatitis. However, the complication often takes 7 or more days to develop.
Signs of an abscess can be seen on:
It may be possible to drain the abscess through the skin (percutaneous). Surgery to drain the abscess and remove dead tissue is often needed.
How the person does depends on how severe the infection is. The death rate from undrained pancreatic abscesses is very high.
Calling your health care provider
Call your health care provider if you have abdominal pain with fever or 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.
Forsmark CE. Pancreatitis. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 146.
Review Date: 2/18/2012
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.