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Pulmonary Abscess: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Pulmonary Abscess:Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

When the defense mechanisms of the organism do not respond correctly and infectious agents are inhaled, in one or two weeks, the first signs of this delicate affection could be observed that supposes a risk for the life of the sufferer.



A lung abscess is an infection, usually bacterial, that occurs in the lung tissue. The infection produces the death of the tissue and the accumulation of pus in the same space. The treatment can be a challenge for medical professionals, since time and adequate decision making are of vital importance for the total recovery of the patient.



Causes of Pulmonary Abscess:

A lung abscess is a cavity that forms as a result of an infection that damages the tissues of the lung, leaving a space that will fill with pus. The appearance of a lung abscess is usually caused by the aspiration of bacteria that are found in the mouth or throat and thus move to the interior of the lungs where they lodge and infect the tissue. Also the bacteria that make the gums sick can be the source of a lung abscess.


Pulmonary abscess
Pulmonary abscess

The body, in general, reacts with mechanisms such as cough to prevent the penetration of these bacteria into the lungs. But when the person is unconscious due to:

  • Anesthesia.
  • Consumption of drugs or alcohol.
  • He suffers from a disease of the nervous system.



Those mechanisms disappear, and bacteria enter without hindrance.



This condition is associated with infection by bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites, although what happens mostly is that the infection is due to anaerobic bacteria. In the case of people who are immunocompromised, the cause of lung abscess can be another type of microorganisms that are not so common in this disease, such as fungi or bacteria. Some examples are Mycobacterium tuberculosis, streptococci and staphylococci, including Staphylococcus aureus, which can cause a very severe and potentially fatal infection. These unusual pathogens must be identified as soon as possible, since the treatment used is different from the one normally used.



The formation of an abscess can also be caused by the obstruction of the bronchi due to a foreign body or a tumor. In this case the abscess is formed because behind the obstruction there is an accumulation of secretions that, when colonized by batteries, generate an infection. Less commonly, abscesses are caused by bacteria or clots that reach the lungs through the bloodstream from an infection in another part of the body. This mechanism is called septic pulmonary embolism. In this case it is possible that multiple abscesses are formed distributed in both lungs. When this type of infection is observed on the chest radiograph, it resembles the image that produces a necrotizing pneumonia.


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The factors that predispose individuals to suffer a lung abscess are:

  • Dental diseases
  • Immunodeficiency.
  • Alcoholism.
  • Cardiovascular diseases.
  • HIV
  • Loss of consciousness.
  • Coma.
  • General anesthesia.
  • Sedation.


Other diseases of the respiratory system such as:

  • Pneumonia.
  • Pulmonary tuberculosis
  • Necrosis of tumor tissue.



Symptoms of lung abscess

This disease begins slowly and has no obvious symptoms. The person might think that it is a simple cold, but according to the germ that has infected the lung could manifest suddenly. The symptoms may initially resemble pneumonia.


Some of the main symptoms of lung abscess are:

  • Fatigue.
  • High fever.
  • Inappetence
  • Night sweats.
  • Cough with phlegm, which in some cases may have blood and unpleasant smell caused by bacteria.
  • They may also have trouble breathing and feel chest pain when doing so.



Many times people do not pay attention to these symptoms and allow months before consulting the specialist, which can end in a chronic abscess, resistant to treatments. If the abscess is due to more virulent germs, as is the case of Staphylococcus aureus, the symptoms are usually much stronger. The infection with this bacterium can cause the death of the patient in a matter of days, even hours if it is not attended quickly.



How is a lung abscess treated?

A patient who has been diagnosed with a lung abscess, to begin with, should receive intravenous antibiotics. Once the fever has subsided, you can switch to taking antibiotics orally until all the symptoms disappear completely and, above all, the chest x-ray comes out clean. Generally, 3 to 6 weeks of antibiotic treatment are required. However, the total cure of the patient could take more time.



When the lung abscess is produced by the obstruction of the airways due to a tumor or the presence of a foreign body, in some cases a bronchoscopy is done to remove the foreign body. In more complicated pictures it may be necessary to empty the accumulation of pus in the pleural space, known as “empyema”. This procedure is performed with a tube that is inserted into the thorax. In other even more complicated pictures, it may become necessary to remove part of the lung tissue, a complete lobe of the lung or even the entire lung.



Sometimes, it is also recommended to treat patients with physiotherapy, which helps to drain the lung abscess and helps re-expand the damaged area. Most patients evolve positively and heal completely. In cases of patients with compromised immunity and in cases where the abscess is due to the presence of a tumor, the success rate of the treatment decreases.



Lung abscess in children

In children lung abscesses occur less than in adults, but it is also true that this disease has been less studied in the population of infants and large children. In general, when it occurs in children, it is the result of a complicated pneumonia and treatment with antibiotics usually gives positive results, although it is rarely necessary to drain the abscess. In these cases, the factors that predispose to the condition of this condition are cases of small immunosuppressed or weakened and situations that contribute to the aspiration of bacteria from the mouth or throat, such as sedation, altered states of consciousness or seizures.



In both children and adults, the frequency of lung abscesses has decreased today thanks to the application of antibiotics and all the advances in medicine in that regard.

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