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J Trauma. 2004 Dec;57(6):1178-83.

Intrapleural tissue plasminogen activator for complicated pleural effusions.

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Department of Surgery, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA.



This study is aimed at evaluating the safety and efficacy of intrapleural tissue plasminogen activator (TPA) for complicated pleural effusions, including posttraumatic hemothorax.


Data were retrospectively collected from hospitalized patients over a 4-year period (1999-2003) who were treated with intrapleural TPA after failing drainage by tube thoracostomy. Pre- and post-TPA imaging studies were reviewed and scored by a blinded radiologist.


Forty-one consecutive patients with 42 effusions were identified with the following indications: 6 traumatic hemothoraces (14%), 22 loculated pleural effusions (52%), 2 line-associated hemothoraces (5%), and 12 empyemas (29%). Nine patients (22%) required operative drainage including two with posttraumatic hemothoraces. All patients managed nonoperatively demonstrated radiographic improvement after TPA administration. One patient (2.4%) developed hematuria, requiring transfusion. No trauma patient required TPA-related blood transfusion and no deaths were attributable to TPA therapy.


Intrapleural TPA administration appears safe for use in complicated pleural effusions and may decrease the need for operative intervention.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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