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Pelvic Abscesses Can Lead to Dangerous, Even Deadly Infections

Hugo Chavez June 6 Reuters

Hugo Chavez (Reuters)

Rumors surrounding the health of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez continue to spread like wildfire – especially since the controversial leader hasn’t been seen since in public since a June 10 operation in Cuba to remove an abscess from his pelvis. That was more than two weeks ago, and now, there are reports that Chavez is in critical condition.

And while Venezuelan officials insist that he’s fine, some have speculated that he is seriously ill, possibly suffering from prostate cancer.

Dr. David Samadi, a Fox News Medical A-Team member and chief of robotics and minimally invasive surgery at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, said a pelvic abscess usually occurs when there’s been a previous surgery or procedure done.

“It happens after gynecological surgeries, such as a hysterectomy or after ovarian surgeries,” he told FoxNews.com. “In men, you know I haven’t seen pelvic abscesses in the last few years, but many years back when we were doing open surgery – which is maybe what (Chavez) had – we were seeing a lot more abscesses than what we see now because there is a lot of bleeding. And the blood collection, which is called a hematoma, it can get infected, and it can become a pelvic abscess in time.”

So one theory that Samadi said is possible is that Chavez could have undergone prostate surgery a few months ago, and then while he was traveling to Cuba, the pelvic abscess got so bad that he needed immediate medical care.

“Now if the infection gets really bad and it spills into the blood system, then you can have a systemic infection, and that’s lethal – that’s very dangerous. A person would have to come in immediately to be treated,” said Samadi, while noting that he has not treated Chavez and, therefore, could not be sure of the leader's prognosis.

Samadi is talking about is a condition known as sepsis – also known as a systemic inflammatory response syndrome – which occurs when the bloodstream is overtaken by bacteria. It’s caused by a bacterial infection that can begin anywhere in the body, including the bowel, kidney, appendix, liver or gallbladder, as well as the abdominal cavity, where the infection is known peritonitis.

According to Reuters, a senior Venezuelan government source said that Cuban surgeons had operated on the president before peritonitis could develop and that he was recuperating very well.

A U.S. national security official said: "It's a serious health problem, but he could very well recover from it."

“You know how men’s suit jackets have an inside lining?" Samadi said. "Well, the abdomen has an inside lining that’s called peritoneum, and when a pelvic abscess -- just imagine a big pimple -- is localized in that area, most of the time you can drain it by inserting a needle.

"But if it spills and if the abscess ruptures and the pus gets all over the place, that lining inside the abdomen – the peritoneum – gets very inflamed and the patient gets very sick, and that’s called peritonitis. That’s what he could have.”

Again, it’s not known if Chavez is suffering from sepsis, but people who have this condition are usually admitted to the intensive care unit of a hospital and administered antibiotics intravenously.

While most people recover from mild sepsis, about 15 percent die, according to the Mayo Clinic. In cases of severe sepsis, some studies indicate that the mortality rate is close to 50 percent.

Other complications include impaired blood flow to the brain, heart and kidneys. Sepsis can also cause blood clots to form in the organs and the arms, legs, fingers and toes, which could ultimately lead to organ failure and tissue death.

Reuters contributed to this report.