Splenic abscess: Another look at an old disease

Grace S. Phillips, Michael D. Radosevich, Pamela A. Lipsett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To study the changes in the incidence, causes, bacteriologic profile, and management of a splenic abscess. Design: Retrospective case study. Setting: Tertiary, university referral center. Patients: Thirty-nine patients with a splenic abscess. Interventions: None. Main Outcome Measures: Demographics, signs and symptoms, causes, risk factors, diagnostic methods, bacteriologic profile, treatment, and outcome. Results: Patients presented at a mean age of 43 years (range, 2-83 years), after a mean symptomatic period of 16 days, with fever (69%), abdominal pain (56%), nausea and vomiting (38%), and splenomegaly (31%). The majority of abscesses represented metastatic infection (n= 19), and 11 were secondary to immunosuppression. Twelve patients had human immunodeficiency virus disease and 9 used intravenous drugs. In patients who underwent computed tomography, all had abnormal scans (n=33), with a well-defined abscess(es) in 28. Nine abscesses were polymicrobial; monomicrobial isolates included grampositive organisms (23%), gram-negative organisms (31%), fungi (23%), and mycobacteria (23%). Patients presenting before 1989 (1981-1988) (n= 15) and those presenting after 1989 (1989-1996) (n=24) differed in risk factors (intravenous drug abuse, 0% vs 47% [P=.02]; hematologic malignancy, 43% vs 9% [P=.04]) and gram-positive isolates (18% vs 64%; P=.06). Patients underwent splenectomy (n= 18), open drainage (n=4), medical therapy (n=10), or percutaneous drainage (n=5) with respective survival rates of 94%, 50%, 70%, and 100%. Conclusions: In 1996, splenic abscesses are increasingly common. Intravenous drug abuse and human immunodeficiency virus disease are significant risk factors, and the diagnosis should be considered in a patient with fever and abdominal pain who uses intravenous drugs. Antimicrobial agents should be broad since 36% of abscesses were polymicrobial, and should include coverage of gram-positive organisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1331-1336
Number of pages6
JournalArchives of surgery
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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