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abscess, localized inflamation associated with tissue necrosis. Abscesses are characterized by inflamation, which is due to the accumulation of pus in the local tissues, and often painful swelling. They occur in the skin, at the root of a tooth, in the middle ear, on the eyelid (see sty), in the mammary glands, in the recto-anal area, and elsewhere in the body. Abscesses may develop in lung tissue, in the lymph nodes, and in bone. A sinus abscess may result in a fistula, and abscess of the appendix in appendicitis. Unless an abscess discharges spontaneously, surgical incision and drainage is required. See boil; carbuncle.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a localized purulent inflammation of tissues, involving their dissolution and the formation of a pus-containing cavity.

Abscesses may develop in the subcutaneous cellular tissue, in muscles, bones, and so forth, as well as in organs (such as the liver, lungs, spleen, and brain) or between them (interintestinal abscesses, subphrenic abscesses, and so on). Abscesses may appear either independently or as a complication in other diseases—for instance, pneumonia, trauma, etc. They develop as a result of the penetration of pyogenic microbes into the organism through lesions of the skin or the mucous membranes or as a result of importation of pathogenic agents from other purulent foci through the blood and lymph vessels. The microbes that have entered the tissues cause inflammation and subsequent necrosis of a section of tissue or organ. The abscess is surrounded by a zone of inflammation. The organism’s defense reaction is manifested in the formation of a capsule separating the abscess from healthy tissue. The volume of pus in the cavity of an abscess may reach several liters.

The manifestations of abscesses depend on their location, depth, and stage of development. Abscesses located close to the skin or to a mucous membrane cause their reddening, an increase in local and overall temperature, swelling, and fluctuation—a sensation of impulse transmission through a liquid from one wall to the other. When an abscess is deep, the function of the organ in which it is embedded is disturbed, body temperature rises, and pain sets in. The number of leukocytes in the blood and the erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) increase. If the capsule becomes thin, the abscess will open up by itself through the skin or into the bronchial or intestinal lumen, etc. Serious complications develop when abscesses break open into the pleural or abdominal cavity. Abscesses are treated by surgery.


Rufanov, I. G. Obshchaia khirurgiia, 6th ed. Moscow, 1957. Page 311.
Davydovskii, I. V. Obshchaia patologiia cheloveka. Moscow, 1961.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


A localized collection of pus surrounded by inflamed tissue.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


a localized collection of pus formed as the product of inflammation and usually caused by bacteria
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
A CT scan (Figure 2) and subsequent MRI of the lumbar spine (Figure 3) were conducted which revealed extensive findings of discitis/ osteomyelitis at L5-S1 as well as an epidural abscess resulting in severe narrowing of the central spinal canal.
MRI revealed an epidural abscess from T5-6 to T8-9 causing mild thecal cord compression and a collection from L4 to S1 (see Figures 1(a) and 1(b)).
A subperiosteal (3.60x1.96 cm) and an epidural abscess that were connected to each other through a fistulous canal were seen.
The possibility of tuberculous spondylitis with epidural abscess was considered.
While aggressive broad-spectrum antibiotic treatment is universally accepted, it is important to realize that it is not an alternative to surgical management, and proper drainage of an epidural abscess should be carried out without delay [10,11].
Enhancement of the prevertebral and ventral epidural space was suspicious for an epidural abscess. Magnetic resonance venography (MRV) revealed soft tissue signal with decreased flow suggestive of a thrombosis within the left sigmoid sinus and internal jugular vein (Figure 7).
(3) Spinal epidural abscess, which may present very similar features if compared to disc sequestration; inflammatory involvement of the vertebral body and involvement of other intervertebral discs as well as coherent laboratory findings may provide important clues.
Diagnosis of spinal epidural abscess by abdominal plain-film radiography.
MRI showed both a L3-L4 lateral disc herniation and signs of spondylodiscitis affecting the same vertebrae, without paravertebral or epidural abscess. Technetium-99m-methylene diphosphonate bone scintigraphy also confirmed a single abnormal fixation at L3-L4 level, and transthoracic echocardiography revealed no valvular lesion or abscess.
We present a case of a cervical facet joint infection with epidural abscess secondary to a dental infection in a diabetic orthopaedic surgeon.