Trends in the management of bacterial brain abscesses: a review of 102 cases over 17 years

Neurosurgery. 1988 Oct;23(4):451-8. doi: 10.1227/00006123-198810000-00008.


The records of 102 patients with brain abscesses treated over 17 years were analyzed. In recent years, cardiac and pulmonary causes were less frequent, the abscesses were smaller, and fewer patients were in poor neurological condition. There has been no significant change in the type or number of infective organisms or in the number of abscesses during the study period. Computed tomographic brain scanning was the most important factor in reducing the mortality rate from 41% to 4%. The patients were grouped according to the treatment received: excision (n = 46), aspiration (n = 33), or nonsurgical therapy (n = 17). Patients treated nonsurgically were more likely to have smaller abscesses and multiple lesions than were patients in the other two groups. There were no significant differences in the morbidity or mortality rates between treatment groups. Patients whose abscesses were excised had a significantly shorter course of antibiotics than the other patients. Organisms were identified in 85% of the cultures from surgical specimens. The use of preoperative antibiotics was significantly associated with sterile cultures; 30% of patients who received antibiotics preoperatively had sterile cultures, compared with only 4% of patients who did not receive such treatment. The mortality rate among all treated patients (the diagnosis of brain abscess was missed in 6 patients before computed tomographic scanning became routine) was significantly related to the initial neurological grade and the size of the lesion but not to age, sex, or the number of abscesses. Four of the 8 treated patients who died had congenital cyanotic heart disease; an aggressive surgical approach is recommended for such patients.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Bacterial Infections / complications*
  • Bacterial Infections / drug therapy
  • Bacterial Infections / surgery
  • Brain Abscess / drug therapy
  • Brain Abscess / microbiology*
  • Brain Abscess / surgery
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Staphylococcal Infections / complications
  • Staphylococcal Infections / drug therapy
  • Staphylococcal Infections / surgery
  • Streptococcal Infections / complications
  • Streptococcal Infections / drug therapy
  • Streptococcal Infections / surgery


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents