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Am Surg. 2006 Aug;72(8):688-92; discussion 692-3.

Ready for the frontline: is early thoracoscopic decortication the new standard of care for advanced pneumonia with empyema?

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University of Chicago Comer Children's Hospital, Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA.


Video-assisted thoracoscopic decortication (VATD) has been established as an effective and potentially less morbid alternative to open thoracotomy for the management of empyema. However, the timing and role of VATD for advanced pneumonia with empyema is still controversial. In assessing surgical outcome, the authors reviewed their VATD experience in children with empyema or empyema with necrotizing pneumonia. The charts of 42 children who underwent VATD at our institution between July 2001 and July 2005 were retrospectively reviewed for surgical outcome. For purposes of analysis, patients were cohorted into four classes with increasing severity of pneumonia: 1 (-) intraoperative pleural fluid cultures, (-) necrotizing pneumonia, 18 (43%); 2 (+) pleural fluid cultures, (-) necrotizing pneumonia, 10 (24%); 3 (-) pleural fluid cultures, (+) necrotizing pneumonia, 6 (14%); 4 (+) pleural fluid cultures, (+) necrotizing pneumonia, 8 (19%). A P value of < 0.05 via Student's t test or Fischer's exact analysis was considered an indicator of significant difference in the comparison of group outcomes. VATD was successfully completed in all 42 patients with no mortality and without significant morbidity (82% had less than 20 cc blood loss). There was found to be no significant difference (p = NS) in time to surgical discharge (removal of chest tube) among all groups. Hospital length of stay postsurgery was found to be significantly increased between 1 and 4 (6 days vs 9 days; P = 0.038). 14/14 (100%) of children with necrotizing pneumonia were found to have evidence of lung parenchymal preservation with improved aeration on follow-up CT scan and/or chest x-rays. The authors conclude that early VATD in children with advanced pneumonia with empyema is indicated to avoid unnecessarily lengthy hospitalization and prolonged intravenous antibiotic therapy. Furthermore, early VATD can be safely performed in various stages of advanced pneumonia with empyema, promoting lung salvage, and accelerating clinical recovery.

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