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Hong Kong Med J. 2007 Jun;13(3):178-86.

Complicated parapneumonic effusion and empyema thoracis: microbiology and predictors of adverse outcomes.

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Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine and Geriatrics, United Christian Hospital, Kwun Tong, Hong Kong.



To describe the microbiological characteristics of a cohort of patients with complicated parapneumonic effusion and empyema thoracis, and to identify the potential risk factors for adverse outcomes, with particular reference to the choice of empirical antibiotics, intrapleural fibrinolytics, adherence to management guidelines, and input from pulmonologists.


Retrospective review.


Regional hospital, Hong Kong.


All patients with a diagnosis of complicated parapneumonic effusion/empyema thoracis admitted between January 2003 and June 2005.


Microbiological characteristics, mortality, and surgery-free survival. RESULTS. There were 63 patients, with a mean age of 64 (standard deviation, 16) years and a male-to-female ratio of 45:18. The pleural fluid culture positivity rate was 68%; Streptococcus milleri (19%), Bacteroides (14%), Klebsiella pneumoniae (12%), and Peptostreptococcus (7%) were the most common organisms. Thirteen (21%) patients died during their index admission. Use of intrapleural fibrinolytics according to the guideline was associated with survival (P=0.001) while discordant initial antibiotic use was associated with mortality (P=0.002). Discordant initial antibiotic use was also independently associated with reduced surgery-free survival (P<0.001). Subgroup analysis showed that early intrapleural fibrinolytic use (within 4 days of diagnosis) was associated with decreased mortality (P<0.001), increased surgery-free survival (P=0.005), and shorter hospital stay (P=0.039).


Organisms identified from complicated parapneumonic effusion and empyema thoracis differ from those giving rise to community-acquired pneumonia. In these patients, adherence to guidelines, early concordant antibiotic treatment, intrapleural fibrinolytics, and input from a pulmonologist were associated with improved outcomes.

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