Management of Thoracic Empyema: Review of 112 Cases

  • Mohammad Vaziri Mail Department of Thoracic Surgeon, School of Medicine, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran.
  • Ommolbanin Abed Department of General Surgery, School of Medicine, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran.
Empyema, pleural, Thoracotomy, Decortication


To review our experience in treatment of patients with thoracic empyema at a teaching hospital chart of patients were retrospectively reviewed over a 72-month period. A total of 112 patients (94 men, 18 women, mean age: 39, range: 6-89 years) underwent therapeutic procedures for thoracic empyema between 2001-2006. The causes of empyema included parapneumonic empyema (60.7%), thoracic trauma (20.5%), surgical procedures (7.1%) and seeding from an extra-pulmonary source (11.7%). Multiloculated empyemas were documented in 45 patients (40%). Insertion of chest tube was the first procedure in 103 patients (92%). Nineteen patients (17%) were treated by thoracotomy, ten patients (8.9%) had fibrinolytic therapy, eight patients (7.2%) underwent video assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) and sixteen patients (14.3%) had subsequent radiologic-guided drainage. Thoracotomy-Decortication was successful in 90% of patients undergoing surgery and the least successful intervention was tube thoracostomy alone. Twelve of 112 patients (10.7%) died in the hospital including one patient in the thoracotomy group. Long-term follow-up was available in 67 patients including all of patients requiring surgery and fibrinolytic therapy. Thirty four patients (50%) obtained complete functional recovery. Simple drainage as the first procedure for the treatment of thoracic empyema has a high failure rate. Selection of a therapeutic option should be based on age, underlying disease, stage of the empyema, state of the loculation, local expertise and availability. Surgical procedures such as VATS or thoracotomy are recommended as the first procedure in elderly patients and advanced empyema.


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How to Cite
Vaziri M, Abed O. Management of Thoracic Empyema: Review of 112 Cases. Acta Med Iran. 50(3):203-207.