Comparative Study
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The utility and timing of surgical intervention for parapneumonic empyema in the era of video-assisted thoracoscopy.

Empyema, a pyogenic or suppurative infection of the pleural space, continues to cause significant morbidity and mortality in patients with pneumonia. The advent of video-assisted thoracoscopy has placed the treatment algorithm of empyema in flux. We retrospectively reviewed all patients who underwent surgical treatment for parapneumonic empyema from January 1, 1999, through December 31, 2003. Data collected included demographic information, preoperative CT scanning/ thoracostomy tube placement, morbidity/mortality, days from admission to surgery, and postoperative length of stay. We compared patients undergoing video-assisted thoracoscopy to those requiring conversion to open thoracotomy and those who had initial open thoracotomy. Morbidity and mortality rates were similar among all groups. Conversion rate to open thoracotomy was 21 per cent. We found patients operated on within 11 days of admission had a shorter postoperative length of stay with similar morbidity and mortality. Our data supports early aggressive surgery treatment for parapneumonic empyema.

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