Neuropathological and computerized tomographic findings in experimental brain abscess

J Neurosurg. 1981 Oct;55(4):590-603. doi: 10.3171/jns.1981.55.4.0590.


The neuropathological progression of brain abscess formation was studied experimentally at sequential stages in dogs, and the findings correlated with the appearance on computerized tomographic (CT) brain scans. The evolution of brain-abscess formation was divided into four stages based on histological criteria: early cerebritis (Days 1 to 3); late cerebritis (Days 4 to 9); early capsule (Days 10 to 13); and late capsule (Days 14 and later). The cerebritis stage was characterized by prominent perivascular cuffing by inflammatory cells in the area adjacent to the developing necrotic center. However, the early elements of capsule formation appeared with the presence of fibroblasts by Day 5. The CT scans showed ring-shaped contrast enhancement by Day 3. Delayed scans at 30 minutes revealed diffusion of the contrast material into the developing necrotic center, forming a solid lesion. In lesions that were well encapsulated (14 days and older), five distinct histological zones were apparent: 1) a well formed necrotic center; 2) a peripheral zone of inflammatory cells, macrophages, and fibroblasts; 3) the dense collagenous capsule; 4) a layer of neovascularity associated with continuing cerebritis; and 5) reactive astrocytes, gliosis, and cerebral edema external to the capsule. The CT appearance of well encapsulated abscesses showed a typical ring-shaped contrast-enhancing lesion. On the delayed scans, the "ring" did not fill in with contrast enhancement. The diameter of the ring correlated best with the presence of cerebritis (perivascular infiltrates in the adventitial sheaths of vessels surrounding the abscess). The discussion focuses on the relevance of this study to the current management of patients with brain abscess.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Brain Abscess / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Abscess / drug therapy
  • Brain Abscess / metabolism
  • Brain Abscess / pathology*
  • Collagen / biosynthesis
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dogs
  • Encephalitis / pathology
  • Gliosis / pathology
  • Necrosis
  • Staining and Labeling
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Collagen