An empyema is an infection of the inside of the chest cavity, between the lung and the membrane that surrounds it (pleural space). It is often due to severe pneumonia or previous surgery.

Antibiotics are prescribed to control the infection, and a chest tube is used to drain the infection from the lung.

A surgical procedure known as decortication may be needed if the lung doesn't expand properly after draining. A decortication peels away the lining of the lung may be required if the lung does not expand properly.

Video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) is sometimes used for the decortication. Using mini-tools, the surgeon can remove the infected material and break down the scarring. A VATS procedure helps relieve symptoms and causes little discomfort.