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Empyema Thoracis

Overview

Empyema thoracis is the accumulation of pus in the space between the lungs and chest wall (pleural space) that contains lubricating fluid. The pleural cavity is lined by two membranes, one around the lungs and one against the chest wall which together are called the pleura. Empyema thoracis is the result of an infection in the lungs. It can be caused by a range of illnesses, but most common cause is a complication of pneumonia. Besides the dangers this condition presents in with respect to spreading of the infection, the patient also experiences increased breathing difficulties. Empyema thoracis can be life threatening and is most common among the elderly or immunocompromised patients.

Symptoms

Symptoms of empyema thoracis are often the similar to those associated with pneumonia. They include cough, fever, night sweats, shortness of breath, chest pain, and weight loss. In more progressive cases, the patient develops very bad breath, or coughs up bloody or offensive-looking sputum with a intolerable foul odor.

Causes

Empyema thoracis is caused by a number of different organisms, such as bacteria or fungi. These organisms can enter the body as a result of chest wound or surgery, pneumonia, a ruptured esophagus, poor dental health, or in patients who have a stroke and are unable to protect the airway. The infection can enter the pleural cavity through various ways like on the object that caused the chest wound, the bloodstream, in the secretions of a lung abscess, and sometimes even from the surfaces of surgical instruments.