Brain Abscess | Diagnosis & Treatments

How does a doctor know that it's a brain abscess?

During the physical examination, your child's doctor will obtain a complete medical history of your child. In addition to urine and stool tests and a measure of your head's circumference, a doctor may do any of these diagnostic tests:

  • X-ray
    • uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.
  • magnetic resonance imaging
    • also called an MRI
    • uses a combination of large magnets, radio frequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body
    • Intravenous (IV) contrast agents may be given during the scan to better see the abscess
  • computerized tomography scan
    • also called a CT or CAT scan
    • uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs.
  • sputum culture
    • tests the stuff coughed up from the lungs and into the mouth
    • helps to see if an infection is present
  • lumbar puncture
    • also called a spinal tap
    • a special needle is placed into the lower back, into the spinal canal
    • measures the pressure in the spinal canal and brain
    • a small amount of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) can be removed and sent for testing to determine if there is an infection or other problems
  • Electroencephalogram
    • also called an EEG
    • records the brain's continuous, electrical activity by means of electrodes attached to your scalp
  • intracranial pressure monitoring
    • also called ICP
    • measures the pressure inside of your head

How we treat a brain abscess

The key to treating a brain abscess is early detection and treatment. A child with a brain abscess requires immediate hospitalization, treatment, and close monitoring. After your child is hospitalized, our team of doctors and nurses will educate your family on how to best care for your child at home.

Traditional treatments for a brain abscess

The goal of treatment is to reduce the pressure in your child's head and to treat the infection.

  • medications: used to control the infection, seizures, fever and/or other conditions that may be present
  • surgery: required if the medication doesn't work, the abscess gets bigger, or there is a chance of the abscess rupturing
  • breathing machine: used in severe cases to help your child breathe easier
  • therapy: physical, occupational, or speech therapy to help your child regain muscle strength and/or speech skills