A lung abscess is a pus-filled cavity in the lungs. It is almost often caused by a bacterial infection in the lung tissue. Lung tissue dies as a result of the infection. A lung abscess can be difficult to treat, and it might even be fatal.

A lung abscess is termed acute if it lasts shorter than 4 to 6 weeks. A chronic lung abscess is one that lasts longer than this.

What are the symptoms of a lung abscess?

A persistent cough is the most evident sign of a lung abscess. Coughed-up contents may be red or pus-like, and have a terrible odor. Other signs and symptoms include:

Bad breath

A fever of 101 degrees fahrenheit (38.3 degrees celsius) or higher

Shortness of breath comes from a variety of places.

Sweating excessively or nocturnal sweats

weight loss

What causes a lung abscess?

Primary and secondary pulmonary abscesses can be distinguished. It has a variety of reasons and is caused by various bacteria strains.

Primary lung abscess

An infection within the lungs causes primary abscesses.

According to a 2015 study, the condition most likely to render a person prone to getting a lung abscess is alcohol use disorder.

Vomiting and altered states of awareness are common in people with alcohol use disorder. Inhaling stomach contents and germs into the lungs is more likely as a result of these problems, which can lead to illness.

People who misuse alcohol frequently have a weaker immune system as a result of poor overall health and a bad diet, which makes illnesses easier to spread.

A primary lung abscess can be caused by pneumonia, particularly aspiration pneumonia.

Food or fluids from the mouth, stomach, or sinuses are aspirated into the lungs rather than entering the esophagus, resulting in aspiration pneumonia. Primary abscesses are frequently caused by this condition.

When a person is drugged or unconscious, either as a consequence of drunkenness or sedation, aspiration of food or fluids is most common.

Inhaled chemicals frequently cause lung tissue injury. Bacteria, either from an illness or from natural bacteria found in the mouth, respiratory tract, or stomach, are frequently present.

Secondary lung abscess

Secondary abscesses can be caused by a variety of things other than a lung infection. Here are several examples:

Obstruction of the lung’s major airways

Infections travel to the lungs from other regions of the body.

Primary lung abscesses are more prevalent, while secondary lung abscesses are less common.

Who is at risk of developing a lung abscess?

A lung abscess is more likely to form in people who have an alcohol use disorder or who have recently had an illness (especially pneumonia).

Others who are at risk include individuals who have compromised immune systems as a result of:


organ transplant

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)

An autoimmune disorder

People who have recently had anesthesia, as well as those who have lost consciousness as a consequence of an injury or sickness, are at a higher risk.

Another danger factor is inhaling a foreign body that blocks the big airway.

How is a lung abscess diagnosed?

Your doctor will first examine your medical history to determine the presence of a lung abscess. They will be interested in recent procedures in which anesthetic was utilized.

If they suspect an abscess, they will examine sputum or pus.

The doctor may also use imaging tools, such as an x-ray or CT scan, to check the location of the infection in the lungs and rule out other diseases, such as cancer or emphysema.

In the case of more serious infections, the doctor may collect a sample of fluid from the abscess using a bronchoscope.

If your doctor suspects a foreign item has entered your lungs, he or she may put a bronchoscope into your windpipe to detect it.

How is a lung abscess treated?

The primary therapy for a lung abscess is antibiotics. Treatment should continue between 3 and 8 weeks, according to experts. In rare situations, however, therapy for 6 months or more may be required.

Your doctor may also advise you to make lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking if you do, and drinking more water.

Further invasive treatments or surgery may be required in some situations. To drain pus from the abscess, a tube may be placed into the lungs, or a surgical surgery may be required to remove infected or damaged lung tissue.

What are the possible complications?

An abscess might rupture or explode in rare circumstances. This is a major medical issue. Complications from surgical therapy are also possible.

Following an abscess rupture or surgical treatment, the following problems may occur:

Bronchopleural fistula: A bronchopleural fistula is an irregular connection that forms between a major airway within your lung and the lining surrounding the exterior of your lung. This can be remedied by surgery or bronchoscopy. A bronchoscope and sealants can be used in bronchoscopy to close the fistula.

Bleeding from the lungs or chest wall: this can be a tiny quantity of blood or a large amount of blood, both of which can be fatal.

Infection spread to other regions of the body Abscesses can form in other regions of your body, including your brain, if the infection spreads from your lungs.

What is the outlook for a person with a lung abscess?

90% of the time, a primary lung abscess treated with antibiotics resolves without sequelae. Secondary lung abscesses have a greater mortality rate. Treatment as soon as possible may enhance the prognosis.