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Lung abscess

Lung abscess
Classification & external resources
Lung section showing apical abscess
ICD-10 J85.
ICD-9 513.0
DiseasesDB 7607
eMedicine med/1332 
MeSH D008169

Lung abscess is necrosis of the pulmonary tissue and formation of cavities (more than 2 cm)[1] containing necrotic debris or fluid caused by microbial infection.

This pus-filled cavity is often caused by aspiration, which may occur during altered consciousness. Alcoholism is the most common condition predisposing to lung abscesses.

Lung Abscess is considered primary(60%[2]) when it results from existing lung parenchymal process and is termed secondary when it complicates another process e.g. vascular emboli or follows rupture of extrapulmonary abscess into lung.



Conditions contributing to lung abscess

In the post-antibiotic era pattern of frequency is changing. In older studies anaerobes were found in up to 90% cases but they are much less frequent now[3].

Symptom and sign

Onset of symptoms is often gradual, but in necrotizing staphylococcal or gram-negative bacillary pneumonias patients can be acutely ill. Cough, fever with shivering and night sweats are often present. Cough can be productive with foul smelling purulent sputum (≈70%) or less frequently with blood (i.e. hemoptysis in one third cases) [5]. Affected individuals may also complaint chest pain, shortness of breath, lethargy and other features of chronic illness.

Patients are generally cachectic at presentation. Finger clubbing is present in one third of patients[5]. Dental decay is common especially in alcoholics and children. On examination of chest there will be features of consolidation such as localised dullness on percussion, bronchial breath sound etc.


Chest Xray and other imaging studies

Abscess is often unilateral and single involving posterior segments of the upper lobes and the apical segments of the lower lobes as these areas are gravity dependent when lying down. Presence of air-fluid levels implies rupture into the bronchial tree or rarely growth of gas forming organism.

Laboratory studies

Raised inflammatory markers ( high ESR, CRP) are usual but not specific. Examination of sputum is important in any pulmonary infections and here often reveals mixed flora. Transtracheal of Transbronchial (via bronchoscopy) aspirates can also be cultured. Fibre optic bronchoscopy is often performed to exclude obstructive lesion; it also helps in bronchial drainage of pus.


Broadspectrum antibiotic to cover mixed flora is the mainstay of treatment. Pulmonary physiotherapy and postural drainage are also important. Surgical procedures are required in selective patients for drainage or pulmonary resection.


Rare now a days but include spread of infection to other lung segments, bronchiectasis, empyema, and bacteraemia with metastatic infection such as brain abscess[2].


Most cases respond to antibiotic and prognosis is usually excellent unless there is a debilitating underlying condition. Mortality from lung abscess alone is around 5% and is improving.

See also


  1. ^ Bartlett JG, Finegold SM (1972). "Anaerobic pleuropulmonary infections". Medicine (Baltimore) 51 (6): 413-50. PMID 4564416.
  2. ^ a b Pneumonia and Other Pulmonary Infections: Lung Abscess, Medscape. Retrieved on 2007-06-20.
  3. ^ Bartlett JG (2005). "The role of anaerobic bacteria in lung abscess". Clin. Infect. Dis. 40 (7): 923-5. doi:10.1086/428586. PMID 15824980.
  4. ^ Hirshberg B, Sklair-Levi M, Nir-Paz R, Ben-Sira L, Krivoruk V, Kramer MR (1999). "Factors predicting mortality of patients with lung abscess.". Chest 115 (3): 746-50. PMID 10084487.
  5. ^ a b Moreira Jda S, Camargo Jde J, Felicetti JC, Goldenfun PR, Moreira AL, Porto Nda S (2006). "Lung abscess: analysis of 252 consecutive cases diagnosed between 1968 and 2004". Jornal brasileiro de pneumologia : publicaça̋o oficial da Sociedade Brasileira de Pneumologia e Tisilogia 32 (2): 136-43. PMID 17273583.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Lung_abscess". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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