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J Pediatr Surg. 1989 Jul;24(7):659-63; discussion 663-4.

Postpneumonic empyema in childhood: selecting appropriate therapy.

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Department of Pediatric Surgery, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN.

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  • J Pediatr Surg 1990 Dec;25(12):1307.


In order to identify appropriate treatment options for postpneumonic empyema, we reviewed the medical records and, when possible, obtained long-term follow-up chest radiographs and pulmonary function tests on children treated for empyema during the past 11 years. Fifty-one patients were treated in various ways, with antibiotics alone (N = 10), or in combination with tube thoracostomy (N = 23) or decortication (N = 18). Despite administration of appropriate antibiotics and establishment of pleural drainage, many children required prolonged hospitalization and eventual decortication. Based on this review, a scoring system was developed allowing early classification by severity of pleural disease. Factors found to be predictors of severe pleural disease include (1) low pleural fluid pH or (2) glucose; (3) presence of moderate or severe scoliosis or (4) pleural peel or parenchymal entrapment by chest radiography; and (5) infection due to anaerobes, gram-negative organisms, or mycoplasma. Complete opacification of a hemithorax on chest radiography and a pleural peel to thoracic ratio greater than 40% were also associated with severe pleural disease. In patients with mild disease (N = 7), response to antibiotics alone, rapid resolution of fever, and shorter hospital stays were observed. In patients with more severe infections (moderate = 22, severe = 22), decortication accomplished earlier defervescence, radiographic improvement, and hospital discharge than simple tube thoracostomy. No deaths or morbidity were associated with decortication, which could often be accomplished through a minithoracotomy. Follow-up chest radiographs and pulmonary fuction tests showed a prompt return to normal after decortication. This experience indicates utility of a pleural disease severity scoring system in selection of treatment options for children with postpneumonic empyema.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS).

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