What is a cold abscess?

A cold abscess is a specific type of abscess that forms without the heat or swelling characteristically associated with standard abscesses. One usually forms gradually over time, resulting in less irritation or inflammation. The pain usually only occurs when pressure is applied. These inflammations can be chronic and persist after the initial growth without signs of healing or worsening. Abscesses are caused by infection at the site of inflammation, and cold abscesses are usually associated with tuberculosis bacterial infections.

When a cold abscess forms, the infected area fills with pus that can harden over time. Abscesses can range in size from the size of a pimple to a baseball or larger. In patients with tuberculosis they can form in multiple areas, but they are more common in the spinal region, the pelvic area, the groin or the lymph nodes. A common site of cold abscesses are the psoas muscles in which case the abscess is known as a psoas abscess.

An abscess can be identified by physical examination. In the case of a cold abscess, a medical professional may use an MRI, CT scan, or other type of scan to verify that the abscess is not another form of non-inflammatory swelling, such as a tumor. In some cases, a cold abscess can form without a tuberculosis infection, such as when abscesses form on the skin as a result of a staph infection. Persistent cold abscesses from staph infections are known as MRSA abscesses . Cold abscesses can also form in the psoas region in patients with inflammatory bowel disease or in patients suffering from specific types of gunshot wounds.

In the case of tuberculosis, a cold abscess may be accompanied by bone damage at the infected site. Depending on the size and location of the abscess, nearby organs may also experience compression as the abscess expands and presses against them. If it continues to grow without drainage, the bones and organs can be permanently damaged by compression or spread of infection.

While some abscesses swell and go away on their own, most cold abscesses require drainage through a percutaneous catheter or surgical methods, such as drainage incisions. Small abscesses can be treated without surgery or other invasive methods. Hot and cold compress treatments may encourage the abscess to dissolve or drain. Absorption techniques may also work to reduce swelling and drain pus, but may not be as successful. Antibiotic treatments after drainage can reduce the risk of repeated infection.

Go up