• Shruti GOCHHWAL

Lung Abscess – Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Lungs are very important organs in the human body. It is because of them that we are able to breathe freely without any restraint. Any problem in their work is bound to give us a hard time. There are many lung diseases that an individual can either develop due to genetics or can contract from the environment around. However, many of the lung conditions are a direct result of engaging in bad habits like smoking, and drinking.

Lung abscess refers to a cavity that forms in a person’s lungs that is filled with pus. It is caused by bacterial, fungi, and parasitic infections. There are two types of lung abscess, primary, which occurs in an area that is affected with pneumonia or other similar lung infections, and secondary, where bacteria from a different body part spreads to the lung abscess x ray is what helps doctors to diagnose this condition and then create a suitable treatment plan.

What Are Lung Abscess Symptoms ?

Lung abscess symptoms

Woman checking fever, Credit: Canva


There are lots of initial signs and symptoms of lung abscess that can be detected and identified at the beginning stages.lung abscesses can be categorized into

  1. Acute lung abscess, that has a duration of one and a half months

  2. Chronic lung abscess, that has a longer duration

Symptoms of this condition are:

  1. Fever which can be pointed out as one of the most common and early signs of this disease.

  2. A heavy amount of sweating that happens in the night. It is called night sweats. This sweating can also happen during the afternoon time period.

  3. Persistent cough which makes its appearance as a dry cough in the beginning but later on becomes production (cough with the presence of phlegm)

  4. Pain that is experienced while breathing. This kind of pain deteriorates while one is breathing deeply.

  5. Hemoptysis or coughing that is accompanied by blood. It is observed in those people suffering from the later stages of this disease.

  6. Shortness of breath

  7. Rapid and sudden weight loss

  8. An intense feeling of tiredness or fatigue

What Are Lung Abscess Causes?

Lung abscess causes

virus illustration, Credit: Canva


Lung abscesses of the primary variety have many causes. Their causes are:

  1. Lung disease infection inside your lungs, for example, pneumonia. Aspiration pneumonia is particularly linked to this disease and can prove dangerous if left untreated.

  2. Tumors, ie. Cancer may also lead to the occurrence of this condition in quite a few individuals. In a tumor, the passage of the airways is obstructed. It leads to pneumonia which then turns to lung abscess.

  3. Lung conditions like bronchiectasis, lung contusion or bruises, and cystic fibrosis, all can lead to lung abscesses.

Causes of lung abscess that is secondary in nature are:

  1. Infective material’s aspiration from the person’s mouth and or upper airways.

  2. Septic emboli, or an infection that spreads from the bloodstream into the lungs. It does so through the medium of thrombophlebitis,i.e. A damaged heart valve which is situated on the right side of a person’s heart.

  3. Secondary lung abscess can also occur as a result of an infection that penetrates the lungs from the surrounding regions like esophagus.

How Is Lung Abscess Diagnosed?

Lung abscess is diagnosed on the basis of the symptoms that a person exhibits like a dull sounding bronchial breath and fever. They can use the following methods of diagnosis.

  1. Chest x-ray

  2. Analysis of bacteria

1.   Chest x-ray

Lung abscess diagnosis

lung xray, Credit: Canva


Chest x-rays may display traces of pneumonia, without the abscess. But, lung abscess ct can help doctors to determine and evaluate this condition. It is especially useful in the case of children. CT scan is also very effective in differentiating lung abscess from other conditions like lung empyema, that requires different lines of treatment.

2.   Analysis of Bacteria

diagnosis and treatment

Doctor checking a sample, Credit: Canva


Doctors often take a sample and evaluate the bacteria that is present in it. Through aspiration at the time of bronchoscopy,  samples are obtained which help the doctors to determine the bacteria.

Differential diagnosis of lung abscess relates to other conditions that cause cavitation in the lungs. These conditions are

  1. empyema, which appears as a cavity with a biconvex shape

  2. Tuberculosis

  3. Pulmonary infarct or the area where a cell death due to lack of blood circulation has occurred.

  4. Cavitary lesions due to lung cancer

  5. Fungal infections

Is There Any Lung Abscess Treatment?

Lung abscess treatment

bottle and tablets, Credit: Canva


The first line of treatment for this treatment is the usage of antibiotics. The person may need to continue the course of antibiotics for a long period of time. Along with it, the patients also need to follow a lifestyle that is devoid of smoking. They also need to drink plenty of fluids. Antibiotics work to kill the bacteria present in the abscess. Antibiotics are effective in treating 80 percent of the abscess.

But sometimes, they do not show any improvement. In such cases, postural drainage is done. It is done through a needle that is put inside the chest into the abscess.

When the abscess does not subside even after antibiotics and drainage, then surgery is seen as the last resort. These procedures are called segmentectomy or lumpectomy. In this procedure, the abscess as well as some of the tissue that surrounds it is removed. Usually it is done for large abscesses.

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