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Brain Abscess

What Is a Brain Abscess?

A brain abscess is a localized, pus-filled brain infection most frequently experienced by school-aged children.

Brain abscesses may originate from an open head wound or can be the result of a blood infection that started in the lungs or chest. However, brain abscesses typically arise from an infection located in another body part and it spreads to the brain. Several factors increase the risk for a brain abscess, including:

  • Chronic middle ear/sinus infections

  • Congenital heart disease

  • Dental or jaw infections

  • Face or scalp infections

  • Head injury, particularly scalp fractures

  • Infection from shunts (medical devices that drain cerebral spinal fluid associated with hydrocephalus)


Brain abscess symptoms may reveal themselves suddenly or take weeks to develop, and they mimic other conditions. Symptoms include:

  • Flu-like symptoms — A brain abscess may produce fever, chills and headache.

  • Neurological issues — These range from changes in vision to seizures to muscle weakness, particularly on one side of the body.

  • Mental degradation — This may present in language problems, confusion, inability to focus, or becoming slow to respond or think.

Treatment Options

If left untreated, a brain abscess is fatal. The abscess needs emergency medical treatment, which is performed on an inpatient basis until the abscess is stable. Treatment options include:

  • Medication — For small abscesses or those deep in the brain tissue or combined with meningitis or an HIV/AIDS-related virus, antibiotics and antifungal medications treat the root infection.

  • Abscess surgery — The goal of surgical intervention is to drain the pus from the infection site. This may be performed through a small hole or may require surgeons to remove a flap of the skull. The first method takes approximately an hour, while the second can take three hours. This cures approximately 90 percent of brain abscesses.

Ready for an Appointment?

If you're experiencing signs or symptoms of a brain abscess, schedule an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.

Learn more about our doctors and care team who diagnose and treat a brain abscess.