We reviewed 204 cases of liver abscess seen between 1970 and 1985. Ninety were found to be amoebic, 24 pyogenic and one tuberculous. The cause of the abscesses in the remaining 89 patients was not established. The patients were predominantly male, Indians, and in the 30-60 age group. The majority of patients presented with fever and right hypochondrial pain. The most common laboratory findings were leucocytosis, hypoalbuminaemia and an elevated serum alkaline phosphatase. Amoebic abscesses were mainly solitary while pyogenic abscesses were mainly multiple. Complications were few in our patients and included rupture into the pleural and peritoneal cavities and septicaemic shock. An overall mortality of 2.9% was recorded. The difficulty in diagnosing the abscess type is highlighted. The single most important test in helping us diagnose amoebic abscess, presumably the most common type of abscess in the tropics, is the Entamoeba histolytica antibody assay. This test should be used more frequently in the tropics.
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