[Current value of intrapleural fibrinolysis in the treatment of exudative fibrinous pleural effusions in pleural empyema and hemothorax]

P Kemper, D Köhler
Pneumologie 1999, 53 (8): 373-84
Intrapleural administration of fibrinolytic agents has been in use for fifty years; it has, however, been of clinical importance only for the last twenty years. Parallel to clinical reports procoagulant and fibrinolytic activities in pleural effusions are studied. Most types of pleural injury are characterised by fibrin deposition in the pleural space promoted by concurrent local abnormalities of pathways of fibrin formation and its clearance. Many of the studies of intrapleural fibrinolytics are uncontrolled and retrospective or small and are therefore of limited statistical value. Only five of the studies which are presented in the table are controlled and comparative studies. Intrapleural fibrinolytic therapy was used in exudative fibrinous multi-loculated pleural effusions, pleural empyemas and haemothorax. The global success rate of the studies cited were between 44% and 100%, in most cases more than 80%. The great differences in success rates are due to variations in the pleural diseases and stages of the clinical course, different success criteria, different dosages of fibrinolytic agents, different durations of clamped chest tube drainage and different starting points of therapy during the hospital course. The number of patients enrolled in each study ranged from 8 to 98, the number of children ranged from 2 to 9. Intrapleural fibrinolytic treatment is associated with rare adverse effects. There is no significant systemic fibrinolytic activity of intrapleural fibrinolysis. Intrapleural administration of streptokinase has been reported to lead to antibody formation. Hence, intrapleural fibrinolytic therapy is a useful adjunct in the management of exudative fibrinous multi-loculated pleural effusions, pleural empyemas and haemothorax. There is an increased volume of pleural fluid drainage during the treatment phase, and intrapleural fibrinolysis may reduce the need for more invasive surgical procedures. On the basis of the data of literature we recommend to use a single daily dose of 250,000 U streptokinase or 100,000 U urokinase in 50-100 ml normal saline instilled into a chest tube and to maintain dwell times of 2 to 4 hours. Therapy can be continued up to 2 weeks. The pleural space can be drained by large bore chest tubes or small drainage catheters, both radiologically guided, without preference for one method.

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