Brain abscess - Complications of a brain abscess
NHS Choices Medical Reference
Possible complications of a brain abscess are outlined below.
Brain damage can range from mild through moderate to severe.
Mild brain damage can result in:
Moderate brain damage can result in:
- changes in mood such as feeling restless or agitated
- problems with tasks that require high-level thinking such as planning and decision making
- difficulties with balance and coordination - the medical term for this is ataxia
Severe brain damage can result in:
- weakness in certain parts of the body
- and in the most serious of cases - coma or persistent vegetative state
Mild to moderate brain damage often improves with time. Severe brain damage is likely to be permanent.
Brain damage is more of a risk when the diagnosis of a brain abscess was delayed and treatment did not begin quickly enough. Brain abscesses can now be diagnosed very easily with a CT or MRI scan, so the risk of serious brain damage is now low.
A common complication of brain abscesses is epilepsy, a condition that causes repeated fits or seizures. Epilepsy is a long-term condition and symptoms can usually be controlled using medication.
Read more about the treatment of epilepsy.
In some cases, especially those involving children, a brain abscess can develop into bacterial meningitis, a life-threatening infection of the protective membranes that surround the brain.
Symptoms of meningitis include:
- severe headache
- high temperature (fever) of 38ºC (100.4ºF) or over
- stiff neck
Someone with bacterial meningitis will require urgent treatment in hospital; usually an intensive care unit (ICU).
Antibiotics will be used to treat the underlying infection. These will be given intravenously (through a vein in the arm).
At the same time a person may also be given:
- intravenous fluids (through a vein)
- steroids or other medication to help reduce the inflammation (swelling) around the brain
Read more about the treatment of meningitis.