An empyema is infected fluid that collects in the pleural space (the space around the lung).


The most common cause of an empyema is pneumonia. Pneumonia frequently causes a pleural effusion (fluid around the lung). The pleural effusion or fluid around the lung may have germs or bacteria growing in the fluid. When this happens the fluid is called an empyema. An empyema may occur after surgery of the lung or chest.


Before treatment the doctor will have to test the fluid around the lung is see if it is an empyema. Placing a needle into the fluid and sending it for testing does this. An empyema is treated with antibiotics and drainage. The drainage may be done with a chest tube. Usually these chest tubes remain in place for a prolonged period of time. Some patients require surgery to fully drain the fluid.


An empyema is a serious condition that needs medical attention and treatment quickly. If left untreated an empyema will make the patient very sick and even possibly lead to death.

Related Links

National Library of Medicine
The National Library of Medicine presents information and pictures about empyema.