Therapy of parapneumonic effusions in children: video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery versus conventional thoracostomy drainage

Beth A Kurt, Kimberly M Winterhalter, Robert H Connors, Bradford W Betz, John W Winters
Pediatrics 2006, 118 (3): e547-53

OBJECTIVE: Controversy surrounds the optimal treatment of parapneumonic effusions. This trial of pediatric patients with community-acquired pneumonia and associated parapneumonic processes compared primary video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery with conventional thoracostomy drainage.

DESIGN: A prospective, randomized trial was conducted at DeVos Children's Hospital (Grand Rapids, MI) between November 2003 and May 2005. All of the patients under 18 years of age with large parapneumonic effusions were approached for enrollment in the study. After enrollment, each patient was randomly assigned to receive either video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery or thoracostomy tube drainage of the effusion. Subsequent therapies (fibrinolysis, imaging, and further drainage procedures) were similar for each group per protocol.

RESULTS: Eighteen patients were enrolled in the study: 10 in video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery and 8 in conventional thoracostomy. The groups were demographically similar. No mortalities were encountered in either group, and everyone was discharged from the hospital with acceptable outcomes. Yet, there were multiple variables that demonstrated statistical difference. Hospital length of stay, number of chest tube days, narcotic use, number of radiographic procedures, and interventional procedures were all less in the patients who underwent primary video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery. In addition, no patient in the video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery group required fibrinolytic therapy, which was also statistically different from the thoracostomy drainage group.

CONCLUSIONS: The outcomes of this study strongly suggest that primary video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery for evacuation of parapneumonic effusions is superior to conventional thoracostomy drainage.

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