Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Empyema Overview

What is an empyema?
A person with an empyema has a collection of pus within the chest cavity, caused by an infection. The pus lies in the space between the outside of the lung and the inside of the chest wall. The most common cause of empyema is pneumonia. An empyema can form when the infection spreads from the inside of the lung, to the outside of the lung. With treatment, most people recover completely from an empyema.

What are the symptoms of an empyema?
Symptoms of an empyema include fever, chills, and chest pain that worsens with deep breathing and is often worse on one side of the chest. Other symptoms include breathing difficulty, wheezing, and cough.

How does the doctor treat an empyema?
Treatment for an empyema includes antibiotics, narcotic pain medications, and surgical tube drainage.

Continue to Empyema Risk Factors

Last Updated: Aug 18, 2010 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Empyema References
  1. Graham EA. Principles involved in the treatment of acute and chronic empyema. 1924. J Am Coll Surg. 2005 Aug;201(2):157. [16110601]
  2. Maskell NA, Davies CW, Nunn AJ, Hedley EL, Gleeson FV, Miller R, Gabe R, Rees GL, Peto TE, Woodhead MA, Lane DJ, Darbyshire JH, Davies RJ; First Multicenter Intrapleural Sepsis Trial (MIST1) Group. U.K. Controlled trial of intrapleural streptokinase for pleural infection. N Engl J Med. 2005 Mar 3;352(9):865-74. [15745977]
  3. Tsai TH, Jerng JS, Chen KY, Yu CJ, Yang PC. Community-acquired thoracic empyema in older people. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2005 Jul;53(7):1203-9. [16108939]
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