Brain Abscess

Abscess is an infection filled with pus and often causes inflammation and swelling. This may occur in different parts of the body. Brain abscess is when this pus filled infection occurs in the brain, and causes the brain to swell. The infected area is confined within a sac as a response of the immune system.

The abscess has detrimental effects on the brain such as putting pressure on it, tissue damage, and blockage of blood vessels and may also intervene in supply of blood to some parts of brain. If diagnosed with this infection, you should be treated immediately.

The most common cause of brain abscess is known to be bacteria and fungi. They may cause infection to the brain through various ways which include:

  • Bacteria or fungi present in another infected area of the body such as ear, sinuses, teeth, lungs, etc. travel to the brain through blood stream.

  • Bacteria or fungi enter into the brain directly through a wound in the head due to an injury or as result of a surgery.

Certain factors increase the chances of developing brain abscess in your brain. These include

  • A weakened immune system due to high intake of medicines

  • Any congenital heart defect

  • Diabetes

  • Meningitis

  • A recent head injury or surgery

  • Dental procedures

  • Face, ear or sinus infection

Symptoms for brain abscess may vary slightly in babies and adult children. For babies and young children; symptoms include

  • Fever

  • Headache

  • Seizures

  • Sleepiness

  • Increased irritability

  • High-pitched cry

  • Poor feeding

  • Vomiting

  • A  bulging, soft area on the head

Older children may show symptoms like:

  • Fever

  • Severe headache

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Stiffness in neck

  • Seizures

  • Change in personality or behaviour

  • Speech problems

  • Walking problems

  • Vision problems

  • Involuntary muscle movements

  • Increased movement in the arms or legs

The symptoms of brain abscess are usually similar to conditions of other diseases. But, if you notice any of the above mentioned symptoms in yourself or your child that are persistent; then consult one of our doctors from the Mind and Brain Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital.

Your time with your doctor maybe limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.

Initially, the doctor will take your medical history and then carry out a neurological examination to determine the functionality of your nervous system. This will be done by checking your reflexes,  strength and movement of your muscles, coordination, balance, mental strength, vision, speech, hearing capabilities, etc. He may also take circumference of your head to compare the head size with normal and abnormal size ranges.
Depending on the examination, doctor might order any of the following diagnostic tests.

  • Blood tests: To determine the presence of microorganisms and check for any signs of infection.

  • Urine and stool tests

  • X-ray: To get a skull X-ray as any fractured bones can be the cause of an abscess.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and Computed tomography scan (CT scan) of the head: These give more detailed images than X-ray and assists in identifying the location and size of abscess.

  • Lumbar puncture or spinal tap: To check the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) which is the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord, for microbes and infection. For this, the back side of head is numbed, a needle is passed through the spinal canal, and sample of CSF is collected and sent for laboratory testing. This helps in determining the type of infection and exact cause of the abscess.

Treatment may vary depending on the type of infection and the microorganism causing it, and the age and medical history of the patient.

Medicines and antibiotics will be given to control the infection and other symptoms of the disease. If needed, medication might be directly injected into the brain. If the brain abscess is large, you might undergo a surgery in order to drain out the infectious material within the abscissa or completely remove it. 

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

 The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

 The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage




The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.