During the years 1978 to 1982, 48 patients with primary lung abscess were seen in the Sheba Medical Center in Israel. Seven of them (14%) did not respond to conservative treatment and were candidates for operation. All were successfully treated by percutaneous tube drainage initiated under local anesthesia, and all recovered completely. There were no relapses after a follow-up period of 2 to 5 years. During this period, we did not perform pulmonary resection for primary lung abscess. Three patients with malignant abscesses were also treated initially by transthoracic drainage but eventually required surgical intervention. We conclude that percutaneous transthoracic drainage is an efficient and safe mode of treatment, and we recommend transthoracic drainage as the treatment of choice for long-standing, refractory primary lung abscesses.