Brain abscess (or cerebral abscess) is an abscess caused by inflammation and collection of infected material, coming from local (ear infection, dental abscess, infection of paranasal sinuses, infection of the mastoid air cells of the temporal bone, epidural abscess) or remote (lung, heart, kidney etc.) infectious sources, within the brain tissue.
The infection may also be introduced through a skull fracture following a head trauma or surgical procedures.
Brain abscess is usually associated with congenital heart disease in young children.
It may occur at any age but is most frequent in the third decade of life.
The diagnosis is established by a computed tomography (CT) (with contrast) examination. At the initial phase of the inflammation (which is referred to as cerebritis), the immature lesion does not have a capsule and it may be difficult to distinguish it from other space-occupying lesions or infarcts of the brain. Within 4–5 days the inflammation and the concomitant dead brain tissue are surrounded with a capsule, which gives the lesion the famous ring-enhancing lesion appearance on CT examination with contrast (since intravenously applied contrast material can not pass through the capsule, it is collected around the lesion and looks as a ring surrounding the relatively dark lesion). Lumbar puncture procedure, which is performed in many infectious disorders of the central nervous system is contraindicated in this condition (as it is in all space-occupying lesions of the brain) because removing a certain portion of the cerebrospinal fluid may alter the concrete intracranial pressure balances and causes the brain tissue to move across structures within the skull (brain herniation).
Ring enhancement may also be observed in cerebral hemorrhages (bleeding) and some brain tumors. However, in the presence of the rapidly progressive course with fever, focal neurologic findings (hemiparesis, aphasia etc.) and signs of increased intracranial pressure, the most likely diagnosis should be the brain abscess.
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