Definition of Empyema
Empyema is a collection of pus in the space between the lung and the inside of the chest wall (pleural space).
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Empyema is caused by an infection that spreads from the lung. It leads to a buildup of pus in the pleural space.
Signs and tests
The health care provider may note decreased breath sounds or a friction rub when listening to the chest with a stethoscope (auscultation).
The goal of treatment is to cure the infection and remove the collection of pus from the lung. Antibiotics are prescribed to control the infection.
When empyema complicates pneumonia, the risk of permanent lung damage and death goes up. Patients will need long-term treatment with antibiotics and drainage. However, most people fully recover from empyema.
David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 3/17/2009