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Lung Abscess

Abscess Pulmonary

A lung abscess is a purulent cavity located in the pulmonary parenchyma that is delimited to surrounding tissue by a capsule built up in the course of abscess formation.


Presentation

Abscess formation is not a rapid process and symptoms develop in the course of weeks or even months, particularly if provoked by anaerobic pathogens, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Nocardia spp. and fungi. Initial LA stages may be asymptomatic, but this highly depends on the underlying disease and possible previous pneumonia. The transition from symptoms that are triggered by active pneumonia to those provoked by an encapsulated LA may not be clearly defined and the clinical picture is usually dominated by symptoms related to the former.

In this context, commonly observed symptoms are fever, night sweats, cough, chest pain, loss of appetite, anorexia and subsequent weight loss [9]. Fever is said to be higher if a lung infection is caused by aerobic pathogens and may exceed 38.5 °C in these patients. The cough may produce foul smelling and tasting sputum, hemoptysis may be observed if blood vessels are compromised [10].

Auscultation may reveal decreased, more bronchial breath sounds and inspiratory crackles. Percussion produces dull sounds. These symptoms are more severe in patients suffering from pleural empyema or pyopneumothorax. Here, breath sounds may even be inaudible.

Periodontal disease and gingivitis are often detected.

Pneumonia
  • 'Focal necrotizing pneumonia' was defined as a localized type of necrotizing pneumonia characterized by a single or few cavities of low density without rim enhancement on computed tomography (CT) scan.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Mycoplasma pneumoniae is a common cause of community-acquired pneumonia in children, while lung abscess is a severe complication of bacterial pneumonias caused mainly by pyogenes.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Lung abscess in adults due to Streptococcus pneumoniae is not common. In this regard we present a case series of pulmonary cavitation due to Streptococcus pneumoniae and discuss the possible pathogenic mechanism of the disease.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Our study suggests that the Mycoplasma pneumoniae infection may predispose to severe infections, such as lung abscess, caused by typical respiratory pathogens.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Culture from the abscess showed no growth, while polymerase chain reaction assay indicated Mycoplasma pneumoniae DNA. Serum passive agglutinin titer for M. pneumoniae was significantly elevated in the convalescent phase.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
Cough
  • Cough , fever with shivering , and night sweats are often present.[en.wikipedia.org]
  • A 23 year old female with a past history of a lung abscess diagnosed at the age of 13 years presented with recurrent episodes of productive cough.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • In this context, commonly observed symptoms are fever, night sweats, cough, chest pain, loss of appetite, anorexia and subsequent weight loss.[symptoma.com]
  • •Loose cough, bloody or thick, yellow tenacious sputum, raises much mucus. •Breathing difficult worse lying on left side. •Loose voice and coughs when exposed to dry, cold winds. •Cough troublesome when walking. •Dry, hoarse cough.[drthindhomeopathy.com]
  • In this study, we describe a previously healthy 3-months-old infant who was admitted with high fever, cough, and respiratory distress, who had a history of varicella infection three weeks before, with exposure from her adolescent, unvaccinated sister.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
Productive Cough
  • A 23 year old female with a past history of a lung abscess diagnosed at the age of 13 years presented with recurrent episodes of productive cough.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Fourteen days after the accident, posttraumatic empyema thoracis and lung abscess developed with clinical presentations of fever, productive cough and right chest pain.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • A 38-year-old man presented with high-grade fever, productive cough, and chronic joint pain of the limbs.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Results Over half the cases comprised of adult,male patients.Clinically,90.2% presented with productive cough,followed by 82.9% with fever, and 58.5% with haemoptysis.A significant association of 65.9%was found with smoking.Among other risk factors, poor[erj.ersjournals.com]
  • , may have TB Adenoma – recurrent chest infections Lung TB - weight loss, fevers, night sweats, dry-productive cough Pneumonia/lung abscess - features of acute chest sepsis, fever Pulmonary infarction (2 o - PE) - pleuritic chest pain, tachyponea Cardiac[mydentistryjourney.wordpress.com]
Pleural Effusion
  • Pulmonary angiography confirmed PAA/PAP, and embolization with coils successfully stopped both the bleeding into the sputum and pleural effusion, with a collapsed aneurysm visible on chest CT scan.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • He subsequently underwent resection of the lung abscess and removal of exudative pleural effusion on the fourth hospital day.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Lactobacillus spp. was detected from the pleural effusion by culture and was considered to be the causative organism, and it was resistant to TEIC. Therefore, the antibiotic was changed, to clindamycin, to which the bacteria was susceptible.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • See also [ edit ] Empyema Bronchiectasis Abscess Pleural effusion References [ edit ] Bartlett JG, Finegold SM (1972). "Anaerobic pleuropulmonary infections". Medicine (Baltimore) . 51 (6): 413–50. doi : 10.1097/00005792-197211000-00001 .[en.wikipedia.org]
Hemoptysis
  • Intravenous administration of antibiotics and thoracic drainage successfully controlled the infection and inflammation until day 16, when the patient began to exhibit hemoptysis and bloody pleural effusion.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • We present a case of an 80 yr old male patient who presented with chest pain, fever and hemoptysis with chest x-ray showing cavitation.[austinpublishinggroup.com]
  • In view of recurrent hemoptysis and persistence of thick walled cavity, he was admitted for lobectomy (left lower lobe).[medical-case-reports.imedpub.com]
  • Fever Cough Sputum (mixture of saliva and mucus) production with pus Putrid or sour tasting phlegm Night sweats Weight loss Coughing blood (hemoptysis) Chest pain, especially while inhaling (pleurisy) Diagnosing Lung Abscess Chest X-ray: shows the location[providence.org]
  • Case Description: A 70 year-old male presented with a three-day history of chest pain and cough with hemoptysis. He was found to have a leukocytosis and neutrophilia without fevers, chills, or night sweats.[sages.org]
Fever
  • A 59 year old man presented to our hospital with a 1 month history of cough and low grade fever progressing to high grade fever for 1 week.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • A 79-year-old man consulted us because of left chest pain and fever ranging from 38.0 to 38.9 C. A chest computed tomography scan showed a mass lesion (φ40 mm) in the left lingular segment, and inflammatory markers were elevated.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • In this study, we describe a previously healthy 3-months-old infant who was admitted with high fever, cough, and respiratory distress, who had a history of varicella infection three weeks before, with exposure from her adolescent, unvaccinated sister.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • We present a case of a lung abscess in a child 6-year-old admitted with a history of right hemithorax pain lasting for 15 days and the onset of mild fever in the last two days.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • A 10-year-old boy with West syndrome was referred to hospital because of high fever and cough. Chest X-ray and computed tomography showed consolidation with an abscess in the right upper lobe. Laboratory data indicated cytokine storm.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
Weight Loss
  • A 56-year-old Caucasian lady presented with a short history of pleuritic chest pain on the background of a 2-month history of fever, chills, 10-kg weight loss and cough with brown sputum after a laparoscopic cholecystectomy.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • , may have TB Adenoma – recurrent chest infections Lung TB - weight loss, fevers, night sweats, dry-productive cough Pneumonia/lung abscess - features of acute chest sepsis, fever Pulmonary infarction (2 o - PE) - pleuritic chest pain, tachyponea Cardiac[mydentistryjourney.wordpress.com]
  • Symptoms are persistent cough, fever, sweats, and weight loss. Diagnosis is based primarily on chest x-ray. Treatment usually is with clindamycin or combination beta-lactam/beta-lactamase inhibitors.[msdmanuals.com]
  • Symptoms include fatigue, loss of appetite, night sweats, fever, weight loss, and a cough that brings up sputum. Diagnosis is usually determined with a chest x-ray.[merckmanuals.com]
  • Fever Cough Sputum (mixture of saliva and mucus) production with pus Putrid or sour tasting phlegm Night sweats Weight loss Coughing blood (hemoptysis) Chest pain, especially while inhaling (pleurisy) Diagnosing Lung Abscess Chest X-ray: shows the location[providence.org]
Chills
  • A 56-year-old Caucasian lady presented with a short history of pleuritic chest pain on the background of a 2-month history of fever, chills, 10-kg weight loss and cough with brown sputum after a laparoscopic cholecystectomy.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • When to Call a Doctor Call a doctor for shortness of breath, wheezing, high fever with chills, or fainting spells, or if a respiratory infection worsens despite treatment.[healthcommunities.com]
  • He was found to have a leukocytosis and neutrophilia without fevers, chills, or night sweats.[sages.org]
  • Symptoms include: - Moderate fever (101-102/F or 38-39/C) - Chills - Chest pain - General weakness - Ccough (in later stages cough will produce a foul or musty-smelling phlegm, or blood) - Lack of appetite and weight loss - Swelling of fingers due to[empowher.com]
  • The most common signs and symptoms of this lung infection include productive cough which may include coughing up pus-like or blood stained mucus, bad breath, chest tightness/pain, shortness of breath, fever, night sweats, chills and fatigue.[prod.hopkins-abxguide.org]
Fatigue
  • Symptoms include fatigue, loss of appetite, night sweats, fever, weight loss, and a cough that brings up sputum. Diagnosis is usually determined with a chest x-ray.[merckmanuals.com]
  • The most common signs and symptoms of this lung infection include productive cough which may include coughing up pus-like or blood stained mucus, bad breath, chest tightness/pain, shortness of breath, fever, night sweats, chills and fatigue.[prod.hopkins-abxguide.org]
  • Bad breath Fever and chills Chest pain Shortness of breath (Dysphagia) Sweating and night sweats Weight loss Fatigue The risk is greater for anyone with a poor immune system (due to diabetes or old age) or is already weakened by other illnessess such[suziquaif.co.uk]
  • Productive cough Fever, chills, or night sweats Fatigue Shortness of breath Coughing up blood How is a lung abscess diagnosed? Blood tests may show which type of bacteria is in your lung.[drugs.com]
  • Abscess Fever and chills Being sick for several weeks or months Rapid heart rate Profuse sweating General feeling of poor health Loss of appetite and weight loss Chest pain Deep cough that may produce foul-tasting or bloody sputum Clubbing of the fingers Fatigue[healthcommunities.com]
Anemia
  • Anemia (Hb level less than or equal to 10 mg/dl) was statistically significant predictive factor for increased mortality.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • . • DISMINUCIÓN DE LA FIEBRE, INICIO ES INSIDIOSO CON SEMANAS DE MALESTAR GENERAL, FEBRÍCULA, TOS, BAJA DE PESO IMPORTANTE, ANEMIA. 4.- ETAPA DE POST VÓMICA: 1.- PACIENTES CON ASPIRACIÓN O PREDISPUESTOS A ASPIRAR 2.- ENFERMEDAD EN SEGMENTO PULMONAR DECLIVE[es.slideshare.net]
Loss of Appetite
  • Symptoms include fatigue, loss of appetite, night sweats, fever, weight loss, and a cough that brings up sputum. Diagnosis is usually determined with a chest x-ray.[merckmanuals.com]
  • In this context, commonly observed symptoms are fever, night sweats, cough, chest pain, loss of appetite, anorexia and subsequent weight loss.[symptoma.com]
  • Symptoms of Lung Abscess Fever and chills Being sick for several weeks or months Rapid heart rate Profuse sweating General feeling of poor health Loss of appetite and weight loss Chest pain Deep cough that may produce foul-tasting or bloody sputum Clubbing[healthcommunities.com]
Chest Pain
  • Fourteen days after the accident, posttraumatic empyema thoracis and lung abscess developed with clinical presentations of fever, productive cough and right chest pain.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • A 56-year-old Caucasian lady presented with a short history of pleuritic chest pain on the background of a 2-month history of fever, chills, 10-kg weight loss and cough with brown sputum after a laparoscopic cholecystectomy.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • A 29-year-old man was admitted with fevers, cough, left-sided chest pain and lethargy for 1 week. He had a cardiac transplant 10 years prior and was on immunosuppressive drugs.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • We describe a forty three year old Caucasian female presented three days post-bronchial thermoplasty with left sided chest pain radiating to the back associated with shortness of breath, wheeze and dry cough.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Empirical amoxicillin/clavulanate therapy was initially administered; however, the patient had persistent pleuritic chest pain and fever.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
Tachycardia
  • B- Signs: 1- General ; fever, tachypnea, tachycardia, pallor, clubbing ........etc. 2- Local ; of pleurisy (rub), consolidation (br br, TVF), effusion ( dullness, intensity of breath sounds & TVF ). 20.[slideshare.net]
  • […] is often insidious (more acute if following pneumonia) Spiking temperature with rigors and night sweats Cough phlegm production (frequently foul-tasting and foul-smelling and often blood-stained) Pleuritic chest pain Breathlessness Signs Tachypnoea Tachycardia[patient.info]
  • On examination, he was febrile, with tachypnea and tachycardia. There were bilateral crepitations in the chest, with decreased breath sounds in the left upper zone. Investigation revealed leukocytosis with high neutrophil count.[ispub.com]
Poor Oral Hygiene
  • Conclusion Lung abscess was found to be more common in adult men,and was significantly related to smoking.The other common risk factor was found to be poor oral hygiene,while the right lower lung zone was the main site of abscess formation.Pseudomonas[erj.ersjournals.com]
  • Those at particular risk are patients who: - Get drunk - Use drugs - Have had a surgical procedure where general anesthesia has been used - Have gingivitis, periodontal disease or otherwise poor oral hygiene - Are older and have difficulty swallowing[empowher.com]
  • The human mouth and gums contain large numbers of anaerobic bacteria; patients with periodontal disease or poor oral hygiene have higher concentrations of these organisms.[medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com]
Night Sweats
  • Symptoms include fatigue, loss of appetite, night sweats, fever, weight loss, and a cough that brings up sputum. Diagnosis is usually determined with a chest x-ray.[merckmanuals.com]
  • Productive cough Fever, chills, or night sweats Fatigue Shortness of breath Coughing up blood How is a lung abscess diagnosed? Blood tests may show which type of bacteria is in your lung.[drugs.com]
  • , may have TB Adenoma – recurrent chest infections Lung TB - weight loss, fevers, night sweats, dry-productive cough Pneumonia/lung abscess - features of acute chest sepsis, fever Pulmonary infarction (2 o - PE) - pleuritic chest pain, tachyponea Cardiac[mydentistryjourney.wordpress.com]
  • Fever Cough Sputum (mixture of saliva and mucus) production with pus Putrid or sour tasting phlegm Night sweats Weight loss Coughing blood (hemoptysis) Chest pain, especially while inhaling (pleurisy) Diagnosing Lung Abscess Chest X-ray: shows the location[providence.org]
  • He was found to have a leukocytosis and neutrophilia without fevers, chills, or night sweats.[sages.org]
Stroke
  • View Article PubMed Google Scholar Russell W, Taylor W, Ray G, Gravil J, Davidson S: Not just a ‘simple stroke’. Acute Med. 2011, 10 (1): 35-37.[bmcneurol.biomedcentral.com]
  • Stroke/cerebral palsy/cognitive impairment/impaired consciousness leading to increased risk of aspiration. Immunosuppression, particularly chronic granulomatous disease in children. Congenital heart disease.[patient.info]
  • Aspiration is most likely to occur in patients who are unconscious or semiconscious due to anesthesia, seizures, alcohol and drug abuse , or stroke.[medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com]
  • Gastric content, foreign bodies and pathogens - although the latter may always happen involuntarily - cannot be coughed up in states of alcoholic delirium, drug abuse, seizures, stroke and other neurologic dysfunctions.[symptoma.com]

Workup

Medical history and clinical examination are usually sufficient to diagnose impaired lung function, but cannot confirm the existence of a LA.

Blood samples should be obtained and analyzed for possible indicators of current infection. Leukocytosis and left shift are often detected. Sputum should be analyzed and prepared for bacterial culture and examination for parasite stages. Of note, special culture media are required for mycobacteria. They need to be ordered explicitly. Interferon-γ release assays and other special tests have recently been proven highly valuable for diagnostic of tuberculosis.

Imaging studies are required to confirm the presence of a LA, to assess the extent of tissue damage and possible pleural involvement. LA, potential empyema and lung cancer are generally visible in thoracic radiographic images [11]. LA display in form of an irregularly shaped cavity that is partially filled with air, partially with fluid. Its capsule becomes more clearly defined as inflammation in adjacent lung tissue resolves. If LA result from an aspiration pneumonia, the upper lobes and the superior segments of the lower lobes are most likely to be affected. If pleural involvement cannot be unequivocally determined, computed tomography scans may supplement diagnostics [12]. Ultrasonography may be an option if the patient needs to be examined at the bedside [13].

Cavitary Lesion
  • A chest X-ray showed a cavitary lesion with an air-fluid level in the right lung. Computed tomography of the lung revealed 2 cavitary lesions in the right upper and lower lungs. Sputum culture revealed Salmonella spp group B.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • A case of allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA) is being described in a 52-year-old female patient who presented with a cavitary lesion on skiagram chest and simulating a lung abscess.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • However, this procedure has rarely been performed in cavitary lesions of advanced tumor origin before initiating any chemotherapy/radiotherapy scheme.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • In our case, the patient had presented to us with a cavitary lesion with air fluid level in the left lower zone right from the beginning. Non response to ATT was noted.[medical-case-reports.imedpub.com]
Pulmonary Infiltrate
  • Peripheral neutrophil counts were higher in patients with abscess than in those with only pulmonary infiltration. In certain cases, Legionella abscess developed during neutropenia recovery. However, lymphocyte counts were low in most cases.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
Pseudomonas
  • High blood sugar levels and detection of Pseudomonas aeruginosa on sputum cultures were also implicated. Anemia (Hb level less than or equal to 10 mg/dl) was statistically significant predictive factor for increased mortality.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • We report on a case of Pseudomonas aeruginosa sepsis and consecutive lung abscess in a 13-year-old patient with acute B-cell leukemia.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Cultures from sputum samples grew Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Candida albicans, A. fumigatus, Serratia, Acinetobacter and Enterobacter cloacae.[aspergillus.org.uk]
  • Sputum cultures showed Pseudomonas aeruginosa was present in 29.3%. No growth on blood cultures was seen in 86.6% and only 9.8% exhibited growth of E. coli.[erj.ersjournals.com]
  • Klebsiella, Staph, Pseudomonas etc .[slideshare.net]
Mycobacterium Fortuitum
  • Although Mycobacterium fortuitum (MF) is a non-tuberculous mycobacterium that rarely causes disease, there are reported cases of pneumonia, lung abscess, and empyema in subjects with predisposing lung disease.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
Pleural Effusion
  • Pulmonary angiography confirmed PAA/PAP, and embolization with coils successfully stopped both the bleeding into the sputum and pleural effusion, with a collapsed aneurysm visible on chest CT scan.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • He subsequently underwent resection of the lung abscess and removal of exudative pleural effusion on the fourth hospital day.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Lactobacillus spp. was detected from the pleural effusion by culture and was considered to be the causative organism, and it was resistant to TEIC. Therefore, the antibiotic was changed, to clindamycin, to which the bacteria was susceptible.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • See also [ edit ] Empyema Bronchiectasis Abscess Pleural effusion References [ edit ] Bartlett JG, Finegold SM (1972). "Anaerobic pleuropulmonary infections". Medicine (Baltimore) . 51 (6): 413–50. doi : 10.1097/00005792-197211000-00001 .[en.wikipedia.org]
Pleural Exudate
  • Pleural exudates and transudates: diagnosis with contrast-enhanced CT. Radiology , 192 , 803–808. PubMed Google Scholar Bartlett, J. G., Gorbach, S. L., Thadepalli, H., & Finegold, S. M. (1974). Bacteriology of empyema. Lancet , 3 , 338–340.[link.springer.com]

Treatment

Treatment of LA depends on the underlying pathological condition.

The vast majority of LA involves bacterial infection and thus requires antibiotic therapy. Although there are some general guidelines regarding parenteral antimicrobial therapy [14], bacterial cultures and corresponding antibiograms should be prepared as early as possible. This procedure gains increasing importance due to rising resistance among causative agents.

Several anaerobic bacteria may produce β-lactamase and thus render β-lactam antibiotics ineffective unless they are combined with β-lactamase inhibitors. Clindamycin has been proposed as a valuable alternative (starting with 600 mg, i.v. tid, then administering up to 300 mg, per os qid). Metronidazole, however, has been reported to be ineffective in the majority of cases [15]. Moxifloxacin and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole may also be applied to treat LA.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus requires the application of vancomycin (15 mg per kg body weight, i.v. bid) and linezolid (600 mg, i.v. bid). Doses may be reduced later.

LA due to infection with fungi is often associated with immunodeficiency, either due to HIV infection or long-term glucocorticoid therapy. If possible, the underlying disease should be treated. Mycotic lung infection requires therapy adjusted to the causative agent.

If patients do not respond to pharmacological treatment, surgery may be an option. It is rarely needed for patients presenting with uncomplicated LA but is sometimes carried out in lung cancer patients with associated LA. Before opting for surgery and depending on the patient's overall condition, endoscopic drainage should be considered [16].

Prognosis

Prognosis for LA that occurred due to aspiration pneumonia or bacterial infection is generally favorable. Drug therapy is sufficient to cure more than 90% of these LA patients.

Prognosis is unfavorable for LA that develop secondary to lung cancer.

Etiology

Pulmonary inflammation and LA formation is usually triggered by bacteria that are inhaled into the lungs. Potential causative agents are commensal germs that may be present in the oral cavity and in the upper respiratory tract [2]. These bacteria do not cause inflammation in the lower respiratory tract as long as sufficient oxygen is inhaled and inhibits metabolism and growth. If lung tissue is damaged, e.g., due to trauma, there may be parts that remain inadequately ventilated that facilitate replication of the aforementioned bacteria.

This same chain of events may apply to obligate pathogens such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis and bacteria causing periodontal disease. In these cases, however, no primary lesion is necessary for infection to take place. The infection is, however, facilitated by immunodeficiency. Other causative agents of LA pertain to the genus Streptococcus and Staphylococcus. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus may cause a severe infection that is difficult to treat [3].

Pulmonary embolism generally provokes tissue necrosis and secondary infection. However, in rare cases, septic emboli may become trapped in pulmonary vessels and may directly cause vessel occlusion and tissue infection. Septic pulmonary embolism is often associated with drug abuse and utilization of unsterile needles. It may also result from bacterial endocarditis or peripheral septic thrombophlebitis [4].

Other than bacteria, fungi, parasites as well as mechanical disturbances may lead to LA formation. In this context, mucus secreted in bronchial tubes and bronchioles that are located below the point of airway obstruction, cannot be moved upwards to be eliminated. Bacteria may be present in this accumulation of mucus and may trigger pulmonary inflammation and LA formation.

Patients with weakened reflexes, possibly due to alcohol or drug use, sedation or comorbidities, may be unable to eliminate bacteria, gastric content or foreign bodies from the trachea by coughing. They are therefore more prone to develop pneumonia and subsequent LA.

Epidemiology

The worldwide incidence of LA has been declining since antibiotics are readily available in large parts of the world. Also, retrospective analysis has shown that oral surgery and tonsillectomy in a sitting position may lead to LA formation. Such surgical approaches have thus been abandoned and LA incidence could be decreased further [5]. However, local trends do not necessarily reflect this development. Indeed, immunodeficiency facilitates pulmonary infection and LA formation and is becoming increasingly common in developing countries. Other explanations have to be found to account for the local increase in LA incidence in pediatric patients that has recently been observed in France [6].

Increasingly weakened immune systems and higher incidence rates of lung cancer may account for the fact that LA are most frequently seen in the elderly. Almost half of all LA detected in patients aged 50 years and older are related to lung tumors. Here, they are often preceded by pneumonia [7]. Despite of higher incidence rates among the elderly, people at any age may be affected by LA. 

Men are affected more often than women.

Sex distribution
Age distribution

Pathophysiology

One of the more common triggers for LA formation is aspiration pneumonia. Reduced consciousness is accompanied by blunt reflexes. Gastric content, foreign bodies and pathogens - although the latter may always happen involuntarily - cannot be coughed up in states of alcoholic delirium, drug abuse, seizures, stroke and other neurologic dysfunctions [8]. Neurologic or muscular disorders may also cause dysphagia, a condition that predisposes for inhalation of food particles and subsequent aspiration pneumonia.

Gastric content and food particles do not only carry pathogens into the lungs, they may also be considered foreign bodies in a broader sense of the term. They will trigger a necrotising infection, accumulation of remaining parts of the inhaled foreign bodies, tissue debris, immune cells and bacteria that will finally be demarcated by a thick, fibrous wall, the capsule of the LA.

Pathogenesis of LA also determines whether patients present with single or multiple LA. Typical causes for single LA are airway obstruction and lung tumors. Primary bacterial infection and septic pulmonary embolism often evoke formation of multiple focuses of inflammation and subsequent demarcation.

Most abscesses rupture eventually and generally empty their content into bronchioles or bronchial tubes. The patient will then cough up purulent sputum. LA may empty into the interpleural space, thus causing an empyema that is associated with dyspnea and chest pain. Rarely, greater blood vessels are damaged during abscess maturation and rupture. If this is the case, hemorrhages occur and may be visible as hemoptysis.

Prevention

Aspiration pneumonia, periodontal disease and infection with mycobacteria may be prevented to a certain degree.

Preventive measures for aspiration pneumonia include endotracheal intubation or elevated, possibly lateral positioning of patients with blunted reflexes or high risk of vomiting. Good oral hygiene may decrease the prevalence of periodontal disease. Appropriate hygiene measures should be taken when interacting with patients suffering from tuberculosis, although this may not always be possible.

Summary

An abscess forms after tissue necrosis and demarcation and typically consists of a previously not existing, pus-filled cavity and a solid capsule. While the cavity is filled with tissue debris, immune cells and bacteria, if the latter triggered inflammation and abscess formation, the capsule mainly consists of fibroblasts and macrophages. If such an abscess forms in the pulmonary parenchyma, it is called lung abscess (LA).

Sterile LA exist, but the vast majority of LA develops with the involvement of anaerobic bacteria [1]. Tissue damage may originate from primary infection, aspiration pneumonia, pulmonary embolism, trauma or neoplasm, but even though the primary lesion is not infected, microorganisms may colonize necrotic tissue. Secondary bacterial infection often provokes further tissue damage, stimulates an immune response and formation of pus.

A patient may present one or multiple LA that do not necessarily are not at the same stage of development and maturation. If LA rupture, their content will drain into pre-existing cavities, i.e. into the bronchial tubes or the interpleural space. Patients may thus expectorate pus or show symptoms of pleural empyema.

Patient Information

The human body disposes of several defense mechanisms to assure its integrity and to eliminate pathogens. If bacteria or foreign bodies, e.g., food components, are inhaled into the pulmonary parenchyma, immune cells will try to kill pathogens and to demarcate the area of tissue damage. This process results in the formation of an abscess, a pus-filled cavity that is encapsulated with a fibrous membrane. If these events occur in lung tissue, the abscess is called lung abscess (LA).

Causes

Most cases of LA are triggered by bacteria that reach the pulmonary parenchyma through the upper airways. They may originate from the environment, as is the case for Mycobacterium tuberculosis, or from oral focuses of infection such as periodontal disease and gingivitis.

Pathogenic agents may be carried into the lungs with food components. People with blunted reflexes, e.g., those who are abusing alcohol or drugs, who are suffering from neurological problems or are sedated, are more prone to swallow the wrong way and subsequently develop aspiration pneumonia and LA.

In rare cases, bacteria are carried to lung vessels with the blood stream. This may be the case if the patient suffers from bacterial endocarditis or septic thrombophlebitis.

Symptoms

Because LA often develop in the late stages of pneumonia, symptoms provoked by the latter may not always be distinguishable from those caused by the abscess itself.

Infections cause fever, night sweats, loss of appetite and subsequent weight loss. Lung infections account for productive cough. The expectorated sputum may contain pus, sometimes even blood, smells and tastes foully.

Diagnosis

Medical history and clinical examination are usually not sufficient to identify the cause of lung problems. In order to do so, blood and sputum need to be analyzed and chest X-rays have to be obtained.

Laboratory analysis of blood samples will reveal elevated white blood cell counts that indicate infection. The causative pathogens may be isolated from sputum samples and grown in bacterial cultures. This procedure is also very useful to identify antibiotics that are effective against these pathogens. Finally, chest X-rays will confirm the presence of a LA. They also allow for an evaluation of the overall condition of the lung and its surrounding space, the interpleural space. Questionable findings may be verified in computed tomography scans.

Treatment

Treatment depends on the underlying disease. Since bacteria are involved in the majority of LA cases, antibiotics are most frequently prescribed. The specific antimicrobial compound should be chosen in consideration of resistance results obtained from bacterial cultures. Antibiotic therapy of LA is a long-term treatment that starts with intravenous application and later switches to oral medication. Similarly, mycotic lung infections require anti-fungal treatment.

Surgery is usually not necessary but may be considered if patients do not respond to drug therapy.

References

Article

  1. Yu H, Higa F, Koide M, et al. Lung abscess caused by Legionella species: implication of the immune status of hosts. Intern Med. 2009; 48(23):1997-2002.
  2. Bartlett JG. Treatment of anaerobic pleuropulmonary infections. Ann Intern Med 1975; 83:376.
  3. Bubeck Wardenburg J, Palazzolo-Ballance AM, Otto M, Schneewind O, DeLeo FR. Panton-Valentine leukocidin is not a virulence determinant in murine models of community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus disease. J Infect Dis. 2008; 198(8):1166-1170.
  4. Razonable RR, Rahman AE, Wilson WR. Lemierre syndrome variant: necrobacillosis associated with inferior vena cava thrombosis and pulmonary abscesses after trauma-induced leg abscess. Mayo Clin Proc. 2003; 78(9):1153-1156.
  5. Schweppe HI, Knowles JH, Kane L. Lung abscess. An analysis of the Massachusets General Hospital cases from 1943 through 1956. N Engl J Med. 1961; 265:1039-1043.
  6. van den Berg JM, van Koppen E, Ahlin A, et al. Chronic granulomatous disease: the European experience. PLoS One. 2009; 4(4):e5234.
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Last updated: 2018-03-05 15:15