Intrapleural fibrinolytic treatment of multiloculated postpneumonic pediatric empyemas

Cemal Ozcelik, Ilhan Inci, Ozgur Nizam, Serdar Onat
Annals of Thoracic Surgery 2003, 76 (6): 1849-53; discussion 1853

BACKGROUND: Progression of empyema, with the development of fibrinous adhesions and loculations, makes simple drainage difficult or impossible. The appropriate management remains controversial. Intrapleural fibrinolytic treatment to facilitate drainage of loculated empyema instead of open thoracotomy has been advocated since the 1950s. The aim of this study was to assess the effectiveness of intrapleural fibrinolytic treatment in postpneumonic pediatric empyemas.

METHODS: In our clinic, we used intrapleural fibrinolytic agents in 72 pediatric patients with multiloculated empyema between 1994 and 2002. Streptokinase, 250,000 U in 100 mL of 0.9% saline solution (59 patients), and urokinase, 100,000 U in 100 mL of 0.9% saline solution (13 patients), were instilled daily into the chest tube, and the tube was clamped for 4 hours followed by suction. This treatment was continued daily for 2 to 10 days until resolution was demonstrated by chest radiograms or computed chest tomography.

RESULTS: The rate of drainage after fibrinolytic treatment was increased 73.77%. Treatment was ineffective in 14 (19.44%) of 72 patients who underwent fibrinolytic instillation. Treatment was discontinued because of allergic reaction and pleural hemorrhage in 1 patient, and because of development of bronchopleural fistula in another one. The regimen was completely successful in 43 (59.72%) patients, and partially successful in another 15 (20.83%). Twelve of those patients who had failure eventually required decortication and recovered completely. One patient died of sepsis and pleural hemorrhage; another patient died because of food aspiration.

CONCLUSIONS: In all patients with loculations except those with a bronchopleural fistula, intrapleural fibrinolytic treatment should be tried. Thus, the majority of children with loculated empyemas can be treated successfully without invasive interventions, such as thoracoscopic debridements or open surgery.

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