Select Page

A lung abscess is a pus-filled hollow surrounded by inflammatory tissue in your lung. It generally happens by microorganisms from your mouth or throat reach and grow into your lungs, causing an infection/abscess.

A lung abscess can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

Common cause being inability to cough out, this frequently occurs as a result of:

  • In a state of being unconscious and aspirating vomitus/food into lungs
  • Use of alcohol or other drugs
  • Diseases of the nervous system
  • Sedated person is more likely to aspirate food particles into lungs
  • Oral health issues: An abscess is more probable in those who have gum disease.

In cases when immune system isn’t functioning properly: this can allow germs to enter your mouth or throat that aren’t normally present there, such as fungus or bacteria that cause TB, aggressive forms of streptococcus, and MRSA.

Blocked airway: Mucus gets retained in your windpipe behind a tumour or foreign body, resulting in an abscess. The barrier prevents you from coughing up microorganisms that have gotten into your mucus.

Bacteria or contaminated blood clots from an infected portion of your body can move through your circulation and into your lung, causing an abscess.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of a lung abscess usually appear gradually over many weeks. They may include the following:

  • Pain in the chest, especially while inhaling
  • Coughing
  • Tiredness
  • Fever
  • Appetite loss.
  • Excessive sweating at night
  • Sputum (a combination of saliva and mucus) containing pus that is sometimes sour, foul-smelling, or stained with blood
  • Loss of weight


There are two approaches to diagnose a lung abscess:

  • An X-ray of your chest will guide your doctor where the abscess is located in lungs.
  • Your doctor will use a CT scan of your chest to check/confirm for an area in the lungs which would be generally hollow or fluid-filled in the centre.
  • The doctor may also use a bronchoscope, a narrow tube with a light and a camera at the end, to obtain sputum or lung tissue samples (from inside of the airway tree) for further testing if:  Antibiotics aren’t doing any good alone, they believe you have a blockage in your airways and your immune system has been compromised.


A lung abscess should be treated aggressively with:

Antibiotics: Antibiotics are usually injected into a vein for 2 to 8 weeks. After that, you may need to resort to oral antibiotics. You’ll keep taking them until the abscess is no longer visible on a chest X-ray. If your abscess is 6 cm or more in diameter, drainage /excision may be required. A CT scan will be used to guide your doctor in case they plan to place in a drain in abscess cavity.

Surgery: Although it’s not uncommon, some of the patients might require surgery to remove the diseased area/section of their lung. To get rid of the infection, occasionally the lobe or even entire lung may need to be removed. A blocking foreign item can also be removed with surgery. Either conventional thoracic surgery or VATS (video assisted thoracic surgery) might be required for excision of that area.

Antibiotics will help the majority of patients recover completely. The sooner you receive therapy, the better. If you’re frail, unwell, have a compromised immune system, or have a tumour blocking your airways, it may be more difficult to recover. Hence, it is advisable to see the lung surgeon in Delhi or nearby place possible to get the treatment done appropriately and at the earliest.