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Asian Cardiovasc Thorac Ann. 2010 Aug;18(4):337-43. doi: 10.1177/0218492310375752.

Thoracic empyema in high-risk patients: conservative management or surgery?

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Assaf Harofeh Medical Center, Zerifin, Israel.


We retrospectively analyzed the data of 119 patients who were treated for empyema thoracis from 1999 to 2007. There were 87 men with a mean age of 63.9 years (range, 19-79 years) and 32 women with a mean age 55.2 years (range, 26-78 years). The empyema was right-sided in 73 patients and left-sided in 46. The etiology was parapneumonic in 43.7% of cases, postoperative in 42.0%, posttraumatic in 11.8%, and due to other causes in 2.5%. Eight (6.7%) patients underwent surgery on admission because of unstable clinical status; all 8 survived. Fibrinolysis was used in 111 (93.3%) patients; of these, 88 (73.9%) were successfully treated by intrapleural urokinase instillation, and 23 (19.4%) failed treatment and underwent surgery. All 88 patients who had successful fibrinolytic therapy survived, they accounted for 1.8% of the morbidity. In the 23 patients who underwent surgery after failed treatment, there were 3 deaths, accounting for 2.7% overall mortality and 6.3% morbidity. Treating thoracic empyema in patients with significant comorbidities is challenging. Intrapleural urokinase administration might be beneficial in high-risk patients, but in those without significant comorbidities, early surgery may be considered.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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