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Management of empyema - Role of a surgeon

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Author(s): Gupta D | Sharma Shilpa

Journal: Journal of Indian Association of Pediatric Surgeons
ISSN 0971-9261

Volume: 10;
Issue: 3;
Start page: 142;
Date: 2005;
Original page

Keywords: Children | Empyema | Surgery

ABSTRACT
Postpneumonic empyema still remains quite common in developing countries, especially during the hot and humid months. While most cases would respond to antibiotic therapy, needle aspiration and intercostal drainage, few cases require further surgical management. The most common nontubercular etiological agent is Staphylococcus. Tubercular etiology is not uncommon in India, especially due to delayed presentation, multiresistant strains, mismanaged cases, and noncompliance with antitubercular treatment amidst malnutrition and anemia. Clinical symptoms, a skiagram chest followed by thoracentesis are enough for diagnosis. Pleural fluid is usually diagnostic and helps in choosing the appropriate antibiotics. Further investigations and management depends on the stage of the disease. Thoracentesis alone may be sufficient for the exudative phase. In fibrinopurulent stage, a properly sized and well-placed tube thoracostomy with underwater seal is curative in most cases. Interventional radiologists have placed small-bore catheters, specifically directed to the loculated collection and have used fibrinolytics like urokinase, streptokinase, and tissue plasminogen activator (TPA) to break loculations, ameliorate fibrous peel formation, and fibrin deposition. Thoracoscopic debridement and thoracoscopic decortication is an alternative with distinct advantages over thoracotmy and are indicated if there was no response with intercostal drainage procedure. In the organizing stage, a thoracotomy (for decortication) would be required if there is a loculated empyema, underlying lung disease or persistently symptomatic effusions. Timely institution of proper management prevents the need for any surgical intervention and avoids long-term morbid complications.
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