Also known as: pleural empyema, pyothorax, purulent pleuritis, infected liquid in the chest.

What is empyema?

The pleura are the smooth coverings between the lungs and the chest wall. Usually they are in close contact with only a small space and a little lubricating fluid between them (pleural space). When this space fills with pus, it’s known as an empyema.   


What causes empyema? 

An infection, usually bacterial pneumonia, (sometimes tuberculosis) is the cause with the infection spreading from the lungs to the pleural space.


What are the symptoms of empyema?

Empyema is suspected when a pneumonia does not improve with treatment. Children may present with a high fever, cough, sweating, chills, chest pain, shortness of breath and weight loss.


What are empyema care options?

Treatments may include intravenous antibiotics, supplemental oxygen, pain medication, and the placement of a chest tube (with or without insertion of medications) to allow the pus to drain.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: 3/23/2018 2:17:22 PM

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