Hopkins ABX Guide

Lung Abscess

What is Lung Abscess?

Lung abscess is an infection of the lung tissue that leads to necrosis of the tissue and accumulation of pus in the necrotic cavities. A potentially fatal condition, lung abscess can either be primary or secondary. It is classified as primary if it a complication of pneumonia and as secondary if being caused by anything else other than pneumonia. It is a serious condition which can fatal if not treated promptly and properly.

Causes of Lung Abscess

Lung abscess is caused by an infection of the lung tissue. In most cases, the infection is caused by bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus bacteria and Burkholderia cepacia, to mention only a few of the most common ones. But the infection can also be caused by other microorganisms including fungi and parasites. In the majority of cases, however, lung abscess is caused by a bacterial infection.

Risk Factors for Lung Abscess

The risk of lung abscess is especially high in individuals who are having problems with alcoholism and have or recently had pneumonia. Other risk factors include inhalation of a foreign body, diabetes, congenital heart disease, drug abuse, immunocompromising conditions such as cancer, chronic lung disease such as cystic fibrosis, sedation/unconsciousness due to an injury, and infection.

What are the Symptoms of Lung Abscess?

Symptoms of lung abscess typically develop gradually. The most common signs and symptoms of this lung infection include productive cough which may include coughing up pus-like or blood stained mucus, bad breath, chest tightness/pain, shortness of breath, fever, night sweats, chills and fatigue. If left untreated, these symptoms get worse, while the abscess can rupture. If this happens, the infection can spread to other parts of the body.

How is Lung Abscess Treated?

Like other conditions caused by a bacterial infection, lung abscess requires antibiotic treatment which can last up to six months. The majority of patients respond well to antibiotics, especially if combining antibiotic therapy with the recommended lifestyle changes such as smoking cessation, increasing fluid intake, practising deep breathing, etc. Severe cases may require surgical insertion of a drainage tube to remove the pus from the lungs.

Most people who receive early treatment fully recover after completing the antibiotic therapy and the abscess usually resolves without causing any lasting consequences. But for people with severely compromised immune system and certain underlying medical conditions, lung abscess can be fatal. Mortality rate is estimated to be about 5% but is steadily declining.