Amebic Liver Abscess

Condition 101

What is the definition of Amebic Liver Abscess?

Amebic liver abscess is a collection of pus in the liver in response to an intestinal parasite called Entamoeba histolytica.

What are the alternative names for Amebic Liver Abscess?

Hepatic amebiasis; Extraintestinal amebiasis; Abscess - amebic liver

What are the causes for Amebic Liver Abscess?

Amebic liver abscess is caused by Entamoeba histolytica. This parasite causes amebiasis, an intestinal infection that is also called amebic dysentery. After an infection has occurred, the parasite may be carried by the bloodstream from the intestines to the liver.

Amebiasis spreads from eating food or water that has been contaminated with feces. This is sometimes due to the use of human waste as fertilizer. Amebiasis is also spread through person-to-person contact.

The infection occurs worldwide. It is most common in tropical areas where crowded living conditions and poor sanitation exist. Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia, and India have significant health problems from this disease.

Risk factors for amebic liver abscess include:

  • Recent travel to a tropical region
  • Alcoholism
  • Cancer
  • Immunosuppression, including HIV/AIDS infection
  • Malnutrition
  • Old age
  • Pregnancy
  • Steroid use

What are the symptoms for Amebic Liver Abscess?

There are usually no symptoms of intestinal infection. But people with amebic liver abscess do have symptoms, including:

  • Abdominal pain, more so in the right, upper part of the abdomen; pain is intense, continuous or stabbing
  • Cough
  • Fever and chills
  • Diarrhea, non-bloody (in only one-third of patients)
  • General discomfort, uneasiness, or ill feeling (malaise)
  • Hiccups that do not stop (rare)
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin, mucous membranes, or eyes)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sweating
  • Weight loss

What are the current treatments for Amebic Liver Abscess?

Antibiotics such as metronidazole (Flagyl) or tinidazole (Tindamax) are the usual treatment for liver abscess. A drug such as paromomycin or diloxanide must also be taken to get rid of all the ameba in the intestine and to prevent the disease from coming back. This treatment can usually wait until after the abscess has been treated.

In rare cases, the abscess may need to be drained using a catheter or surgery to relieve some of the abdominal pain and to increase chances of treatment success.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Amebic Liver Abscess?

Without treatment, the abscess may break open (rupture) and spread into other organs, leading to death. People who are treated have a very high chance of a complete cure or only minor complications.

What are the possible complications for Amebic Liver Abscess?

The abscess may rupture into the abdominal cavity, the lining of the lungs, the lungs, or the sac around the heart. The infection can also spread to the brain.

When should I contact a medical professional for Amebic Liver Abscess?

Call your provider if you develop symptoms of this disease, especially if you have recently traveled to an area where the disease is known to occur.

How do I prevent Amebic Liver Abscess?

When traveling in tropical countries with poor sanitation, drink purified water and do not eat uncooked vegetables or unpeeled fruit.


Huston CD. Intestinal protozoa. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 113.

Petri WA, Haque R. Entamoeba species, including amebic colitis and liver abscess. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, Updated Edition. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 274.

Latest Research

Latest Advance
  • Condition: Amebic Liver Abscess Refractory to Metronidazole (MNZ) and Percutaneous Drainage
  • Journal: BMC surgery
  • Treatment Used: Surgical Drainage with Intraoperative Ultrasonography
  • Number of Patients: 1
  • Published —
This case report discusses a 53-year-old man with amebic liver abscess refractory to metronidazole (MNZ) treated with preoperative computed tomography (CT) and percutaneous and surgical drainage with intraoperative ultrasonography (IOUS).
Latest Advance
  • Condition: Uncomplicated Amebic Liver Abscess
  • Journal: Indian journal of gastroenterology : official journal of the Indian Society of Gastroenterology
  • Treatment Used: Varied
  • Number of Patients: 570
  • Published —
In this review of the literature, researchers evaluated the best treatments for uncomplicated amebic liver abscesses.
Latest Advance
  • Condition: Synchronous Amoebic Liver Abscess and Bleeding Colonic Ulcers
  • Journal: The Journal of the Association of Physicians of India
  • Treatment Used: Endoscopy
  • Number of Patients: 52
  • Published —
This study tested the safety and efficacy of using endoscopic management to treat patients with synchronous amoebic liver abscesses and bleeding colonic ulcers.
Latest Advance
  • Condition: Amoebic Liver Abscess
  • Journal: JPMA. The Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association
  • Treatment Used: Percutaneous Needle Aspiration or Drain Placement
  • Number of Patients: 62
  • Published —
This study compared the effectiveness of percutaneous catheter drain placement with percutaneous needle aspiration in terms of hospital stay, time to resolution of symptoms and cost of intervention performed to treat patients with amoebic liver abscess.

Clinical Trials

There are no recent clinical trials available for this condition. Please check back because new trials are being conducted frequently.