A brain abscess happens after your child has had an infection of the brain. His body forms a small pocket surrounding the infection called an abscess. The abscess contains pus. Pus is a thick fluid that usually contains white blood cells, dead tissue, and germs.
Brain abscesses are rare. They are more likely in school-age children. They happen in boys more than in girls.
Your child can get an infection of the brain from a germ such as bacteria or fungus. The infection can get to your child’s brain by moving from another part of his body through the blood. The source may be an infection that started in your child’s sinuses, ears, mouth, lungs, heart, or other places. Your child can also get an infection after surgery on his brain or from another kind of wound in the brain caused by trauma such as from a bullet or other head injury.
The infection makes cells in the brain die. The infected area of the brain may have inflammation (swelling and redness) and may form pus. Your child’s body protects the rest of the brain from the infection and the pus by forming a wall around the area, which is the abscess.
Your child has a greater risk of having a brain abscess if he has heart disease present at birth, a long-term sinus or ear infection, or a shunt used to drain fluid from the brain.
Abscesses are more common and may be harder to treat in children who have diabetes or poor circulation, and in children whose immune systems are weakened by HIV or AIDS, cancer, or other health problems.
Symptoms of a brain abscess may come on slowly, or they may start quickly. Pressure inside the head (skull) can be caused by swelling or a buildup of blood and fluids in some parts of your child’s brain. Symptoms can be different based on where the abscess is in your child’s brain. Different parts of the brain control different parts of the body. Symptoms of a brain abscess in your child’s head may include:
Your child’s healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history and examine him. He may have tests such as:
Your child may have tests to find out what kind of germ is causing the infection. These tests may include:
The treatment of a brain abscess depends on the location and type of infection your child has. Treatment must start right away, and your child will stay in the hospital. He may be in the intensive care unit until his symptoms improve.
Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.
You can help your child avoid a brain abscess by helping him take good care of his health. Your child should see his healthcare provider right away if your child has symptoms of an infection.
If your child has an infection, help him take his medicine for as long as his healthcare provider prescribes, even if your child feels better. If your child stops taking the medicine too soon, he may not kill all of the germs and he may get sick again. If your child has side effects from his medicine, talk to your child’s healthcare provider.