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Year : 2022  |  Volume : 21  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 21-25  

Safety and efficacy of USG-guided catheter drainage in liver abscesses

1 Department of Radiodiagnosis, Kalinga Institute of Medical Sciences, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India
2 Department of Surgical Gastroenterology, Kalinga Institute of Medical Sciences, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India

Date of Submission06-Jul-2020
Date of Acceptance14-Dec-2020
Date of Web Publication18-Mar-2022

Correspondence Address:
Swati Das
Department of Radiodiagnosis, Kalinga Institute of Medical Sciences, Bhubaneswar, Odisha
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/aam.aam_68_20

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Background: This study aimed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of USG-guided percutaneous drainage in liver abscesses of >5 cm. A lot of literature is available on the minimally invasive treatment of liver abscesses since its introduction in the early 1980s. This study focuses on the eastern Indian population and the outcome of treatment of liver abscess of >5 cm by means of catheter drainage and the use of antibiotics. Patients and Methods: This is a retrospective study conducted on a total of fifty patients over a period of 1 year, 1 month (from June 2017 to June 2018). Only patients with liver abscess with size >5 cm were included in the study. The demographic characteristics; comorbidities; and clinical, radiological, and bacteriological characteristics of liver abscesses in the eastern Indian population and the safety and efficacy of catheter drainage were evaluated. Results: It was found that because of preprocedural empirical antibiotic intake, 70% of the patients had no growth in the pus, whereas 12% had Entamoeba histolytica, 8% had Escherichia coli, and 6% had Klebsiella pneumoniae as the causative agent. The total duration of hospital stay ranged from 3 to 22 days, and the duration of intravenous antibiotics ranged from 1 to 9 days with a clinical success rate of 96% without any drainage-related complications. Conclusion: In contradiction to the earlier belief, percutaneous drainage is a safe and effective means of treatment in liver abscesses of >5 cm with high clinical success rate and reduced duration of intravenous antibiotic requirement as well as hospital stay.

   Abstract in French 

Résumé Contexte: Cette étude visait à évaluer l'innocuité et l'efficacité du drainage percutané guidé par USG dans les abcès du foie de > 5 cm. De nombreuses publications sont disponibles sur le traitement mini-invasif des abcès du foie depuis son introduction au début des années 1980. Cette étude se concentre sur la population de l'est de l'Inde et sur les résultats du traitement des abcès du foie > 5 cm au moyen d'un drainage par cathéter et de l'utilisation d'antibiotiques. Patients et Méthodes: Il s'agit d'une étude rétrospective menée sur un total de cinquante patients sur une période de 1 an, 1 mois (de juin 2017 à juin 2018). Seuls les patients présentant un abcès hépatique de taille > 5 cm ont été inclus dans l'étude. Les caractéristiques démographiques ; comorbidités ; et les caractéristiques cliniques, radiologiques et bactériologiques des abcès du foie dans la population de l'est de l'Inde et la sécurité et l'efficacité du drainage par cathéter ont été évaluées. Résultats: Il a été constaté qu'en raison de la prise d'antibiotiques empiriques préopératoires, 70 % des patients n'avaient pas de croissance dans le pus, alors que 12 % avaient Entamoeba histolytica, 8 % avaient Escherichia coli et 6 % avaient Klebsiella pneumoniae comme agent causal. La durée totale d'hospitalisation variait de 3 à 22 jours, et la durée d'antibiothérapie intraveineuse variait de 1 à 9 jours avec un taux de réussite clinique de 96 % sans aucune complication liée au drainage. Conclusion: Contrairement à la croyance antérieure, le percutané Le drainage est un moyen sûr et efficace de traitement des abcès hépatiques > 5 cm avec un taux de réussite clinique élevé et une durée réduite des besoins en antibiotiques intraveineux ainsi que du séjour à l'hôpital. Mots clés : abcès du foie, cathéter Malecot, drainage percutané, cathéter en queue de cochon, guidé par USG.
Mots-clés: Safety and Efficacy of USG-Guided Catheter Drainage in Liver Abscesses?

Keywords: Liver abscess, Malecot catheter, percutaneous drainage, pigtail catheter, USG-guided

How to cite this article:
Das S, Shankar G, Mohapatra V. Safety and efficacy of USG-guided catheter drainage in liver abscesses. Ann Afr Med 2022;21:21-5

How to cite this URL:
Das S, Shankar G, Mohapatra V. Safety and efficacy of USG-guided catheter drainage in liver abscesses. Ann Afr Med [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Sep 30];21:21-5. Available from:

   Introduction Top

Liver abscess is a common health problem in tropical countries including India.[1],[2] If not treated properly, it carries a high mortality.[3],[4] With the advancements of imaging and the development of ultrasound-guided drainage procedures by the 1980s, antibiotic therapy coupled with percutaneous drainage had been accepted as the treatment modality for liver abscesses.[5],[6] There are many studies on percutaneous drainage of liver abscesses worldwide, but we could find only very few studies on that of the eastern Indian population. Moreover, majority of the studies have found that catheter drainage is efficacious for the treatment of large abscesses (>10 cm). However, in this study, we evaluate the efficacy of catheter drainage in abscesses >5 cm. Hence, this study included patients undergoing sonographic diagnosis of liver abscess >5 cm. Moreover, the aim of this study was to find the demographic characteristics; comorbidities; and clinical, radiological, and bacteriological characteristics of liver abscesses as well as the efficacy of catheter drainage in patients with liver abscess >5 cm in eastern India.

   Patients and Methods Top

In this retrospective study, patients with liver abscesses of size >5 cm who had undergone percutaneous pigtail catheter drainage procedure in the department of radiology of our institution were included. The study period was from January 2018 to January 2020. Small-sized abscesses were excluded from the study. A total of fifty patients were included in this study. Past medical and surgical history; suspected immediate cause of the abscess; immunologic status; demographic data; laboratory findings; location, number, and size of the abscess; type of drainage; pre- and postprocedural duration of antibiotic therapy; and duration of hospital stay were recorded and analyzed. Follow-up for complete resolution or recurrence was done.

Preprocedural preparation

  1. Written consent of the patient or guardian was taken
  2. Total platelet count and prothrombin time (PT)/international normalized ratio (INR) of the patients were checked. The total platelet count had to be above 1 lakh and INR had to be below 1.5
  3. USG screening was done to rule out ascites because presence of moderate-to-gross ascites is considered a contraindication for the procedure [Figure 1].
Figure 1: Ultrasound image shows a liver abscess ( arrow ) in the left lobe measuring approximately 8X10 cms

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  1. 18G 10/15-cm Chiba needle
  2. Injection xylocaine (1% or 2%)
  3. No. 11 blade
  4. 10 F pigtail or Malecot catheter set (plastic dilator and 0.035” stiff guidewires)
  5. 2-0 Mersilk suture
  6. Uro bag
  7. 10-mL syringes
  8. Drape sheet, gauze pieces.


A pigtail catheter was inserted into the liver abscesses using Seldinger technique. The patient was laid in the supine position. The site of percutaneous drainage was cleaned with betadine and draped. Under USG guidance, 5–7 mL of 2% xylocaine was infiltrated in the skin, deep up to the capsule of the liver, and then a small nick was given on the skin surface. 18G 10/15-cm Chiba needle was inserted percutaneously into the abscess cavity. Then, a stiff guidewire was inserted through the needle and the tract was dilated by placing 8F and 10F dilators over the guidewire. Then, 10 F pigtail or Malecot catheter was inserted into the abscess cavity and connected to an Uro bag to allow gravity drainage of the pus [Figure 2] and [Figure 3]. About 5 mL of the pus was put into a container for Gram stain, culture, and sensitivity.
Figure 2: Post Procedure image of the same patient showing a pigtail catheter ( arrow ) inserted into the abscess

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Figure 3: External site of drain insertion in a case of left lobe liver abscess

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All patients received preprocedural intravenous (IV) piperacillin, tazobactam 4.5 g TDS, and IV metronidazole 800 mg TDS, which were continued post procedure for 2–3 days, and then the patients were discharged with oral antibiotics, mostly oral cefixime 200 mg BD or ofloxacin 400 mg BD and metronidazole 800 mg TDS for 7–14 days.


Patients were monitored clinically. USG was done when drain output was <10 mL/day. Duration to attain clinical recovery, duration of hospital stay, duration of antibiotic use, complications, and death were recorded. After discharge, the patients were followed in the outpatient department, clinically as well as by USG on a monthly basis for 6 months.

   Results Top

In this study, a total of fifty cases of liver abscesses were included. Among these, 39 (78%) were male and 11 (22%) cases were female. The age group affected was 21–66 years, with the mean age being 45 years. Fifty percent of the patients had underlying comorbidity, the most common of which was diabetes in 32% of the cases. The most common symptom was fever which was found in 70% (n = 35) of the cases. Abdominal pain was the next most common, seen in 52% (n = 26) of cases. The most common sign was upper abdominal tenderness in 44% (n = 22) of cases.

The demographic data, the associated habits and comorbidities, and the signs and symptoms are summarized in [Table 1]. Right lobe was the most common site of occurrence of abscess (n = 28) in 56% of cases. It has been found that isolated left lobe affection (n = 7 equivalent to 14%) is less common than both lobe affection (n = 15 equivalent to 30%). Solitary abscess cavity was most frequently encountered in 70% (n = 35) of cases. Double abscess cavities and multiple abscess cavities were less commonly seen in 18% and 12% of the cases, respectively. The size of abscess cavity varies from 7.5 cm × 6.5 cm to 15 cm × 13 cm. No growth was seen in 70% of patients who had been empirically treated with abscess drainage and broad-spectrum antibiotics that included piperacillin-tazobactam and metronidazole. While Entamoeba histolytica was the causative agent in 12% of the patients, 8% of the patients were infected by Escherichia coli, 6% of the patients were infected by Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Acinetobacter and Burkholderia made 2% each.
Table 1: Demographic data, associated habits, comorbidities, signs and symptoms

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Among the various laboratory parameters, total leukocyte count (TLC) had increased (>11 × 103/μl) in 35 patients equivalent to 70%, serum bilirubin had raised (>1.2 mg/dL) in 13 patients equivalent to 26%, serum total protein was low (<6 g/dL) in 16 patients equivalent to 32%, and INR had raised (>1.5) in nine patients equivalent to 18%. The laboratory findings are summarized in [Table 2].
Table 2: Abnormal laboratory parameters in liver abscess patients

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Clinical recovery was seen in 96% of the patients (n = 48), whereas death was seen in two patients, both were above 70 years of age. One patient was with pan drug-resistant K. pneumoniae and the other was a diabetic with multiple liver abscesses. The total duration of hospital stay varied from 3 to 24 days, with a mean duration of 12.8 days, while after abscess aspiration, the duration of hospital stay ranged from 1 to 22 days with a mean duration of 7.6 days. Young age with amebic liver abscess was seen to have early clinical recovery, while patients with advanced age, diabetes, jaundice, and pneumonia had delayed recovery with prolonged hospital stay. The duration of intravenous antibiotics post procedure varied from 1 to 9 days with a mean of 4 days and that of oral antibiotics varied from 7 to 14 days.

   Discussion Top

In recent years, minimally invasive percutaneous radiological interventions along with antibiotics usage have been successful in the treatment of liver abscesses, reducing the morbidity and mortality.[6],[7],[8] Several studies are available on the effectiveness of these minimally invasive procedures, however there are very few studies from eastern India. Again, this study focuses on the safety and efficacy of catheter drainage of abscesses >5 cm. Moreover, <5-cm abscesses are managed conservatively by suitable antibiotics after diagnostic aspiration.

In our study, the mean age of those affected was 45 years, which is similar to that of the study conducted by Mangukiya et al.[9] We found that males are more commonly affected. It is in accordance to the literature.[10] The most common comorbidity associated was diabetes mellitus. Yu et al.[11] and Jha et al.[12] also had similar findings in their studies, while Zerem and Hadzic had found cholecystitis as the most common associated comorbidity.[13]

The most common symptom the patients had in our study was fever in 72% of cases followed by pain in the abdomen in 52% of cases, which is consistent with the study of Yu et al.[11] However, Zerem and Hadzic found pain abdomen as the most common symptom.[13] Oschner et al.[14] and Norman et al.[15] showed that clinical features of liver abscess may be nonspecific. Hence, ultrasound scan can be very helpful in the diagnosis of this entity, which has reduced the mortality from 40% to 10%–25% in the last two decades.[16],[17],[18]

A single liver abscess was our most common observation, seen in 70% of the cases studied and its most common location was right lobe of the liver, which is consistent with the study done by Mangukiya et al.[9] The mean size of abscess in their study was 6.87 cm (range 2–15 cm), while in our study, the mean abscess size was 8.5 cm (range 6.5–15 cm).

No microorganisms could be isolated by either Gram staining or culture in about 70% of cases which is because of the empirical use of antibiotics and antiamebic drugs before the percutaneous drainage procedure. Among the rest of the 30% positive culture or Gram stain, the most common organism found was E. histolytica (12%), followed by E. coli (8%) and K. pneumoniae (6%). In many previous studies, the rate of negative microbial study of the pus was very less, which is discordant with that of the present study. The most common organism attributed as the causative agent in previous studies was E. histolytica followed by E. coli and Klebsiella species, which is similar to that of our study.[19],[20]

The most common laboratory abnormality in patients with liver abscess in the present study was leukocytosis (TLC >11,000/mm3) in 70% of cases. Many other studies, including that of Rajak et al.[21] and Yu et al.,[11] had also found similar results. Furthermore, in the present study, serum bilirubin was raised in 26% of patients, INR was prolonged in 18% of patients, and serum protein was low in 32% of patients.

The average duration of IV antibiotics given in our study was 4 days (range: 1–9 days). In the study by Simon et al.,[11] the average duration was 12 days, and that in the study by Khan et al.[22] was 8.4 days. The duration of oral antibiotic administration in our study varied from 7 to 14 days. This reduced duration of intravenous antibiotics in our study may be because of catheter drainage in all the patients instead of needle aspiration. The success rate in our study was 96%. Similar success rate was seen in the study by Khan et al.[22] and Haider et al.[23] The duration of hospital stay varied from 3 to 24 days. Patients with diabetes and renal disorders require longer duration of injectable antibiotics and prolonged hospital stay.

One of the studies on percutaneous drainage of liver abscess from eastern India by Jha et al.[12] showed that the success rate for percutaneous management in patients with pyogenic liver abscess of size >300mL was 100%. In our study with the concurrent usage of catheter drainage and medical management for abscesses >5 cm, we were able to achieve a success rate of 96%.

Complications such as bleeding, pleural effusion or empyema, catheter displacement, and sepsis which were reported in the study by Lambiase et al.[3] were not seen in our study. Hence, percutaneous drainage of liver abscess is safe if performed properly in experienced hands.

   Conclusion Top

This study revealed that for abscesses >5 cm, percutaneous catheter drainage is an effective and safe treatment of choice. As opposed to the earlier belief, it is not associated with longer hospital stay, more nursing care, or increased risk of complications. There was very good success rate with good clinical recovery.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

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Thompson JE Jr. Forlenza S, Verma R. Amebic liver abscess: A therapeutic approach. Rev Infect Dis 1985;7:171-9.  Back to cited text no. 2
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Jha AK, Das A, Chowdhury F, Biswas MR, Prasad SK, Chattopadhyay S. Clinicopathological study and management of liver abscess in a tertiary care center. J Nat Sci Biol Med 2015;6:71-5.  Back to cited text no. 12
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Chiu CT, Lin DY, Wu CS, Chang-Chien CS, Sheen IS, Liaw YF. A clinical study of pyogenic liver abscess. J Formos Med Assoc 1990;86:571-6.  Back to cited text no. 17
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Khan R, Hamid S, Abid S, Jafri W, Abbas Z, Islam M, et al. Predictive factors for early aspiration in liver abscess. World J Gastroenterol 2008;14:2089-93.  Back to cited text no. 19
Singh S, Chaudhary P, Saxena N, Khandelwal S, Poddar DD, Biswal UC, et al. Treatment of liver abscess: Prospective randomized comparison of catheter drainage and needle aspiration. Ann Gastroenterol 2013;26:332-9.  Back to cited text no. 20
Rajak CL, Gupta S, Jain S, Chawla Y, Gulati M, Suri S, et al. Percutaneous treatment of liver abscesses: Needle aspiration versus catheter drainage. AJR Am J Roentgenol 1998;170:1035-9.  Back to cited text no. 21
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  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3]

  [Table 1], [Table 2]


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