Skin inflammatory (nontumor)
Dermal non-granulomatous granulocyte-rich reaction patterns
Abscess

Author: Abha Soni, D.O., M.P.H. (see Authors page)
Editor: Andrzej Slominski, M.D., Ph.D.

Revised: 16 October 2018, last major update May 2016

Copyright: (c) 2003-2018, PathologyOutlines.com, Inc.

PubMed Search: Skin abscess[title]
Cite this page: Soni, A. Abscess. PathologyOutlines.com website. http://www.pathologyoutlines.com/topic/skinnontumorabscess.html. Accessed October 22nd, 2018.
Definition / general
  • Latin: abscessus
  • A skin abscess represents a localized collection of pus that generally develops in response to infection or to the presence of other foreign materials under the skin; formed by tissue disintegration and surrounded by an inflamed area
Essential features
  • Destruction of tissue
  • Addition of fibrin and neutrophils
Terminology
  • Skin abscesses are often referred to as boils
Epidemiology
  • Develops in patients of all age groups
Etiology
  • Typically caused by either an inflammatory reaction to an infectious process (bacteria or parasite) or, less commonly, to a foreign substance within the body (a needle or a splinter, for example)
  • Abscesses may develop because of obstructed oil (sebaceous) or sweat glands, inflammation of hair follicles, or from minor breaks and punctures of the skin; abscesses may also develop after a surgical procedure
  • The most common bacterial organism is Staphylococcus aureus, although various other organisms can also lead to abscess formation
Clinical features
  • An abscess is typically painful, and it appears as a warm, swollen area
  • Hospitalizations for skin abscesses may be increasing (Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis 2011;31:93)
  • The skin surrounding an abscess typically appears pink / red
  • The middle is filled with pus and debris
Treatment
  • Antibiotics alone will not typically cure a skin abscess
  • In general, abscesses must be opened and drained to start healing process
Case reports
Clinical images

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Abscess

Microscopic (histologic) description
  • Cavity usually located on the dermis containing inflammatory infiltrate with abundant neutrophils and necrotic debris
  • The cavity is usually surrounded by inflammatory infiltrate
  • There is also subepidermal edema
Positive stains
  • Gram positive or negative if of bacterial origin