A ruptured abscess is a collection of encapsulated inflammatory material that breaks open, releasing pus and other fluids into the surrounding area. Depending on the location of the abscess, a rupture may make a patient feel better by allowing the abscess to drain, or it may expose the patient to risks of serious medical complications like peritonitis. When abscesses are identified, they should be treated promptly and ideally surgically drained to create a controlled rupture.
Abscesses form as a result of localized inflammation, sometimes in response to an injury or the presence of a foreign object. Cells start to die, white blood cells cluster in the area, and a pocket of pus and other body fluids forms. The body forms a defensive wall around the pocket, sealing the contents so they cannot spread to healthy cells in the area. The site of the abscess is usually swollen, hot, and tender. Such pockets can form anywhere, from the inside of the cheek to deep inside the bowels.
While it is possible for an abscess to reabsorb into the body, most do not heal independently. If an abscess is allowed to persist untreated, there is a risk it will rupture. The pocket may burst open, releasing a collection of material with a very strong and unpleasant odor. If the abscess drains to the surface of the body, it can be relatively easy to clean and care for. Internal abscesses, however, can cause infections and other problems when they rupture. For example, a ruptured abscess in the bowel could release the contents of the bowels into the stomach cavity, a very undesirable medical event.
Treatment for a ruptured abscess involves irrigating the site to completely clean it, and possibly debriding some dead tissue away as well. The ruptured abscess will be bandaged and the patient may be provided with antibiotics in case of infection. A ruptured internal abscess may require surgery to repair the area and check for signs of complications. If a patient experiences repeat abscesses, treatment may also include screening to find out why, with the goal of preventing future buildups of inflamed material.
If a patient identifies an abscess and seeks treatment before it ruptures, a doctor will usually recommend lancing to puncture the walls of the capsule and drain the contents. Once the abscess is drained, it can be cleaned and debrided and the patient can be assessed for indicators suggesting that the inflammation has spread to determine if additional treatment is needed.