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Eur Respir Rev. 2010 Sep;19(117):220-8. doi: 10.1183/09059180.00005610.

Empyema thoracis: new insights into an old disease.

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Respiratory Dept, Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, Portsmouth, UK.


Pleural infection is a disease of historical importance and is still a modern menace, with incidences rising in adults and children, and a significant mortality in adults. Basic research is hampered by limitations with in vivo models, and the bacteriology of empyema is complex. The role of thoracic ultrasound in guiding investigation and drainage of empyema is clear. Prompt treatment with appropriate systemic antibiotics and chest tube drainage are the key; in cases of failure of these measures, thoracic surgery is of proven efficacy in the treatment of this age-old disease.

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