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Interact Cardiovasc Thorac Surg. 2009 Jul;9(1):74-8. doi: 10.1510/icvts.2009.203190. Epub 2009 Apr 14.

Long-term functional results after surgical treatment of parapneumonic thoracic empyema.

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Division of Thoracic Surgery, Department of Surgery and Surgical Specialties, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Policlinico di Modena, Largo del Pozzo 71, 41100 Modena, Italy.


Retrospective evaluation of long-term functional results of surgical treatment of chronic pleural empyema. Two different surgical procedures (debridement vs. decortication) and approaches (VATS vs. thoracotomy) were analyzed. Three end-points were considered: short-term surgical results, short- and long-term radiological results, clinico-functional long-term results. Fifty-one debridement (52% VATS, 48% thoracotomy) and 68 decortication were performed. Postoperative mortality and morbidity were 1.5% and 24%, respectively. Older age (>70 years old) had worse postoperative morbidity (P=0.048). Video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) debridement had lower postoperative hospital stay (P=0.006) and shorter duration of chest drainage (P=0.006). The infectious process was resolved in all patients. All patients presented a postoperative radiological improvement, 63 patients (60%) with a complete pulmonary re-expansion. Sixty patients (58%) referred a complete respiratory recovery. VATS debridement had a greater improvement in subjective dyspnea degree (P=0.041). The long-term spirometric evaluation was normal in 58 patients (56%). Age >70 years old resulted the only variable associated to poor long-term results (FEV(1)% < 60% and/or MRC grade > or = 2) at multivariate analysis. Surgical treatment of pleural empyema achieves excellent long-term respiratory outcomes. VATS is associated to less postoperative mortality and shorter postoperative hospital stay. In elderly patients, postoperative morbidity could be higher and long-term functional improvement less warranted.

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