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What is a Retroperitoneal Abscess?

Deanna Baranyi
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A retroperitoneal abscess occurs when the tissue behind the abdominal cavity breaks down due to a bacterial infection, creates a cavity, and fills with pus. The symptoms are similar to those of other conditions, often making it a difficult condition for doctors to diagnose. It is most commonly caused by inflammation of the abdomen, an infection of the appendix, or an infection of the pancreas. If left untreated, this type of abscess can be fatal.

Generally, a retroperitoneal abscess is caused by a bacterial infection. In most cases, it is caused by an infection of the appendix, called appendicitis, or an infection of the pancreas, called pancreatitis. As acupuncture becomes increasingly popular, there have also been increases in the numbers of these types of abscesses. Specifically, if the acupuncturist does not use hygienic practices, bacteria from the acupuncture needles may be introduced to the person’s abdominal walls, leading to an abscess.

People suffering from a retroperitoneal abscess typically complain of general body discomfort, fever, and pain in the lower back. In addition, many people experience appetite loss and, as a result, weight loss. Typically, the pain will become more severe if the affected individual moves her leg at the hip. Since the signs are subtle, diagnosis may be delayed by weeks, increasing the chances that the condition will be fatal.

Once a medical provider suspects that an abscess may be present, she may take a deeper look at the person’s abdominals. This is typically done using computed tomography (CT) scans or ultrasound technology. These devices may help doctors conclude the affected individual suffers from an abscess, rather than a cyst or a tumor.

A retroperitoneal abscess is treatable. In general, the pus should be drained from the abscess and the person should be treated with antibiotics. The pus can be drained surgically or via a needle. If the doctor is going to use a needle, she may use ultrasound technology to guide her to the pus-filled cavity. Once the pus is removed, it may be analyzed in a laboratory to ensure that the best antibiotic is prescribed. In the alternative, if the abscess is difficult to reach via needle, surgery may be recommended.

It is important to address any health-related concerns with an experienced medical doctor immediately. Since a retroperitoneal abscess is vague in its symptoms, it may take even a skilled doctor days or weeks to diagnosis the problem. As a result, the sooner an individual can seek medical attention, the better the outcome. In many cases, if the underlying cause can be discovered, an abscess can be prevented.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Deanna Baranyi
By Deanna Baranyi
Deanna Baranyi, a freelance writer and editor with a passion for the written word, brings a diverse skill set to her work. With degrees in relevant fields and a keen ability to understand and connect with target audiences, she crafts compelling copy, articles, and content that inform and engage readers.
Discussion Comments
By Telsyst — On Mar 21, 2014

This seems like one of those diseases that you just don't know how someone gets something like this.

Any abscess is bad, but having it in a place that is potentially only able to be reached with surgery is awful. The symptoms for something like this could also be misinterpreted as any number of things.

There are some people that seem to have illnesses that a doctor can't nail down. This one could be just like those, but this is potentially fatal.

Deanna Baranyi
Deanna Baranyi
Deanna Baranyi, a freelance writer and editor with a passion for the written word, brings a diverse skill set to her...
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