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Pleural Empyema


Pleural empyema is pus-filled fluid in the pleural space due to infection. The pleural space is between your lungs and the inside of your chest cavity. Pleural empyema is usually caused by pneumonia. A plural empyema can become a medical emergency that needs immediate treatment.


Return to the emergency department if:

  • You have new or worsening symptoms, such as shortness of breath or chest pain.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


  • Antibiotics are usually given to treat a bacterial infection. This medicine is given to treat pneumonia. You may not get antibiotics if your empyema is not caused by pneumonia.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Manage your symptoms:

  • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung damage. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
  • Drink liquids as directed. Liquids can help soothe your throat if you have a dry cough. Liquids can also help relieve fluid buildup. Ask your healthcare provider how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.
  • Rest as needed. Rest can help your body heal. Rest is also important if you feel more tired than usual.
  • Eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, fish, and beans. You may need to eat more if you are losing weight without trying.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.