Diseases and conditions


What is an abscess?

An abscess is a collection of pus that pools around an infection in the body. It can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites. Abscesses are the body’s normal reaction to an infection and can occur anywhere within the body. Since the infection is inside the abscess, it must be drained to remove it and prevent it from spreading throughout the body.

Abscesses can be diagnosed in many ways. For instance, your doctor may be able to diagnose an abscess simply by your symptoms if it is close to the skin. For infections that are deeper inside the body, you will likely require a diagnostic test such as a CT scan or ultrasound. Certain blood tests may also help identify that you have an infection but may not help identify where in the body the infection is.


An abscess can often be treated with antibiotics, but not always. Interventional radiologists are board-certified physicians who provide minimally invasive treatments with less risk, less pain and shorter recovery time than traditional surgery. Read more below about how an IR phsyician can treat abscesses that may not respond to antiobiotics.

Percutaneous drainage:
If the infection is deep inside the body, interventional radiologists can clear the infection by performing a percutaneous drainage of the abscess. This treatment is usually performed with the help of an ultrasound or CT scan to guide the treatment. A small incision is made and a flexible tube, known as a catheter, is inserted into the abscess. Once the catheter is positioned, the pus inside the abscess is drained through a syringe. Depending on the size of the abscess, the catheter may be left in place to allow continued drainage over the next several days to eliminate the infection.

If you are on certain types of blood thinning medications such as Coumadin, you may be asked to stop these medications prior to the treatment if possible.

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