Brain Abscess in Children

Brain Abscess in Children

An abscess is a pocket of infection.  A brain abscess is when there is a pocket of infection located in the brain.  This can be just in one area of the brain or it can be in multiple areas of the brain.  This condition in children can be very serious and life threatening. The abscess should be treated right away.  There are three most common causes of a brain abscess, either virus, fungi, or bacteria.

  • Bacteria can travel from another part of the body, bring the infection with them.  Such as an ear infection, a sinus infection or a dental infection.
  • Secondly bacteria can travel through the bloodstream. This can  travel from the lungs or chest up to the brain, or from the heart, or from the cerebrospinal fluid to the brain. 
  • A third way is that a virus or bacteria can enter through an open wound in the head. This can be a very serious thing for your child to suffer through. 


There are some symptoms to look for that can show signs of a brain abscess.  From child to child the symptoms of a brain abscess will be different. There can be some different symptoms in younger children than older but most of the symptoms are similar.  Make sure that your child is seen by a healthcare provider if they exhibit any of these symptoms.

Symptoms can include fever, sleepiness, increased irritability, projectile vomiting or nausea and vomiting, severe headaches, problems walking, limb weakness, or seizures.  Your child could experience some changes, such as changes in their personality, changes in behavior, or changes in speech. Infant children may suffer from poor feeding, or high pitched crying.

Make sure to speak with a healthcare provider if your child experiences any of these.  

Risk Factors

If your child has any of the following problems they are more at risk to develop a brain abscess: congenital heart disease, meningitis, chronic ear infections, chronic sinus infections, dental or jaw infections, infections of the face or scalp, head injury, skull fracture, diabetes, shunt infection, or weakened immune system.  


If you take your child to their healthcare provider they will do a few tests. One test that your doctor may do a blood test, which will check for infection.  They may also run a urine check to check for infection too. If your doctor suspects a lung infection they will order a sputum culture. Another test to check for bacteria or fungi is a blood culture.  There are some other tests that can help determine if there truly is a brain abscess after you find out if there is an infection. Your doctor may order an X-ray, which won’t necessarily show an abscess but it will show if there are any skull fractures.  Two tests that will identify an abscess is an MRI, or a CT scan. Once your doctor has ran the tests they need they will come up with a game plan of how to treat the brain abscess. 


The goal of treatment is to decrease pressure on the brain and to get rid of the infection.  There are different things your doctor may want to do to reach this goal. Treatment w