Pleural empyema

A pleural empyema is a pocket of pus that can develop in the pleural area (space between your lungs and chest cavity)


A pleural empyema is a pocket of pus that can develop in the pleural area (the space between your lungs and chest cavity). Normally a result of bacterial infections like pneumonia, pleural empyemas can often lead to mucus, fever, chest pain and other symptoms. Our respiratory experts can treat them.

Need to know

  • Symptoms of pleural empyema icon plus

    • a fever and night sweating
    • a lack or loss of energy
    • difficulty breathing
    • chest pain
    • coughing
    • coughing up mucus containing pus

    Pleural empyema can normally be treated with antibiotics. Sometimes, the pus deposits from multiple empyemas can coat the outer layer of your lungs. This can stop your lungs from expanding properly when you breath.

  • Diagnosis icon plus

    Your GP or respiratory consultant will discuss your symptoms with you. This will help them to make a diagnosis. They may also recommend certain diagnostic tests, including.

    • taking a sample of your mucus to test it for infection
    • taking a blood sample to test it for infection.
    • an X-ray or ultrasound scan to see if fluid has built up on your lungs
  • Potential treatment options icon plus

    If you've been diagnosed with pleural empyemas, your respiratory consultant will discuss your treatment options with you. These will depend on the nature and severity of your symptoms. They might include.

    • antibiotics via a drip attached to a vein in your body
    • draining your chest of fluid using a tube inserted directly into it
    • surgery to remove your infection lung lining (if other treatments have failed

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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