Pancreatic abscess

A pancreatic abscess is cavity of pus within the pancreas.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Pancreatic abscesses develop in patients with pancreatic pseudocysts that become infected.


  • Fever  
  • Chills  
  • Abdominal pain  
  • Abdominal mass  
  • Inability to eat  
  • nausea and Vomiting

Signs and tests

Patients with pancreatic abscesses usually have a history of pancreatitis. They usually develop fevers and Abdominal pain, and have evidence of an abscess on an ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI of the abdomen.


Percutaneous (through the skin) drainage of the abscess may be possible. Laparotomy with drainage and possible surgical removal of dead tissue may be required.

Expectations (prognosis)

The outcome is related to the severity of the infection. The death rate from undrained pancreatic abscesses is very high.


  • Multiple abscesses  
  • Sepsis

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if persistent abdominal pain with fever or other signs of pancreatic abscess develops, particularly if you have recently had a pancreatic pseudocyst or pancreatitis.


Adequate drainage of a pancreatic pseudocyst may help prevent some cases of pancreatic abscess. However, in many cases the disorder is not preventable.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 8, 2012
by Brenda A. Kuper, M.D.

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