Pyogenic Hepatic Abscess: Changing Therapy?

John W.C. Chen, James Toouli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The authors document changes in the etiology, diagnosis, bacteriology, treatment, and outcome of patients with pyogenic hepatic abscesses over the past 4 decades. Summary Background Data: Pyogenic hepatic abscess is a highly lethal problem. Over the past 2 decades, new roentgenographic methods, such as ultrasound, computed tomographic scanning, direct cholangiography, guided aspiration, and percutaneous drainage, have altered both the diagnosis and treatment of these patients. A more aggressive approach to the management of hepatobiliary and pancreatic neoplasms also has resulted in an increased incidence of this problem. Methods: The records of 233 patients with pyogenic liver abscesses managed over a 42-year period were reviewed. Patients treated from 1952 to 1972 (n = 80) were compared with those seen from 1973 to 1993 (n = 153). Results: From 1973 to 1993, the incidence increased from 13 to 20 per 100,000 hospital admissions (p < 0.01). Patients managed from 1973 to 1993 were more likely (p < 0.01) to have an underlying malignancy (52% vs. 28%) with most of these (81%) being a hepatobiliary or pancreatic cancer. The 1973 to 1993 patients were more likely (p < 0.05) to be infected with streptococcal (53% vs. 30%) or Pseudomonas (30% vs. 9%) species or to have mixed bacterial and fungal (26% vs. 1%) infections. The recent patients also were more likely (p < 0.05) to be managed by percutaneous abscess drainage (45% vs. 0%). Despite having more underlying problems, overall mortality decreased significantly (p < 0.01) from 65% (in 1952 to 1972 period) to 31% (in 1973 to 1993 period). This reduction was greatest for patients with multiple abscesses (88% vs. 44%; p < 0.05) with either a malignant or a benign biliary etiology (90% vs. 38%; p < 0.05). Mortality was increased (p < 0.02) in patients with mixed bacterial and fungal abscesses (50%). From 1973 to 1993, mortality was lower (p = 0.19) with open surgical as opposed to percutaneous abscess drainage (14% vs. 26%). Conclusions: Significant changes have occurred in the etiiology, diagnosis, bacteriology, treatment, and outcome of patients with pyogenic hepatic abscesses over the past 4 decades. However, mortality remains high, and proper management continues to be a challenge. Appropriate systemic antibiotics and fungal agents as well as adequate surgical, percutaneous, or biliary drainage are required for the best results.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-67
Number of pages3
JournalHPB Surgery
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Hepatic abscess
  • Liver abscess
  • Pyogenic liver abscess


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