Comparison of closed-tube thoracostomy and open thoracotomy procedures in the management of thoracic empyema in childhood

I Karaman, D Erdoğan, A Karaman, O Cakmak
European Journal of Pediatric Surgery 2004, 14 (4): 250-4

PURPOSE: There is still an argument concerning the correct management of pleural empyema. The aim of this study is to compare the effectiveness of closed-tube thoracostomy and open thoracotomy procedures in the management of empyema in children.

METHODS: This is a prospective study of 30 patients with parapneumonic empyema who were managed randomly either by closed-tube thoracostomy or open thoracotomy procedures. The two procedures were compared based on the respective times to achieving normal body temperature and breath rates, duration of tube drainage, length of hospitalization, and complication rates. Both groups were also assessed by comparing tube drainage duration, pleural fluid pH, agent pathogen and glucose level.

RESULTS: Average tube duration was 7.5 +/- 1.1 days and average hospital stay was 9.5 +/- 1.5 days in the open thoracotomy group. In the closed tube thoracostomy group tube, duration was 13.8 +/- 2.3 days and average hospital stay 15.4 +/- 2.3 days. In the open thoracotomy group 73.3% of the patients had achieved normal body temperature and 66.7 % had a normal breath rate within the first 48 hours. In the closed tube thoracostomy group these rates were 40% and 20%, respectively. In both groups, tube drainage duration was found to be longer in patients whose pleural fluid pH was < 7.2.

CONCLUSION: The authors conclude that open thoracotomy is a safe, efficient, and easy method of treatment for pleural empyema in children. It was also observed that pleural fluid pH level is the most important prognostic criteria in pleural empyema.

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