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Ann Thorac Surg. 2006 Jan;81(1):309-13.

Video-assisted thoracic surgery for pleural empyema.

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Department of Thoracic Surgery, Otto-Wagner Hospital, Vienna, Austria.



After we gained considerable experience with video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) and became familiar with its advantages, we started to use it for the treatment of thoracic empyema.


We treated 130 patients with pleural empyema in whom chest tube drainage and antibiotic therapy had failed to produce a satisfactory result. Six months after surgery they had clinical and radiologic assessment and spirometry.


Video-assisted surgery was performed in all patients. Mean operative time was 93 minutes (range, from 55 to 180 minutes), mean duration of postoperative chest tube drainage was 10 days (range, from 5 to 32 days), and mean hospital stay was 16 days (range, from 3 to 56 days). The rate of conversion to open thoracotomy was 3.1%. Complications for which reoperation was necessary occurred in 9% of patients. At follow-up after six months, the mean forced expiratory volume in 1 second was 87.7% (range, from 69.5% to 105.9%), the mean postoperative vital capacity was 84.4%, (range, from 59.9% to 97.9%). There were no postoperative or procedure-related deaths.


Video-assisted thoracic surgery is a safe and effective treatment option for fibropurulent empyema with low morbidity and mortality. Conversion to thoracotomy should be used if necessary to remove all of the fibropurulent material and achieve complete expansion of the lung to insure a good outcome.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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