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Electronic endoscope insertion into a thoracic drainage tube is a new technique in the treatment and diagnosis of pleural diseases.

BACKGROUND: Pleural disease remains a commonly encountered clinical problem for both physician and surgeon. This study describes a new way to better diagnose and treat pleural diseases (hemothorax, empyema, and pleural effusion) using an electronic endoscope (gastroscope or bronchoscope).

METHODS: We conducted a retrospective study of the use of an electronic endoscope in the treatment and diagnosis of pleural diseases. From November 2006 to February 2008, a total of 17 patients (3 women, 14 men; mean age = 41.8 years; range = 18-62 years) underwent procedures for thoracic empyema (13 patients), traumatic clotted hemothorax (3 patients), and undiagnosed pleural effusion (1 patient). The electronic endoscope was inserted via the thoracic drainage tube for the treatment or diagnosis of pleural diseases after regular treatments, including thoracentesis, tube thoracostomy, and biopsy, failed.

RESULTS: All patients were cured and discharged from hospital and were followed up for 6 months. The patients recovered well and there was no recurrence.

CONCLUSION: The technique of inserting an electronic endoscope into the thoracic drainage tube for diagnosis and treatment of pleural diseases is simple, effective, minimally invasive, and cost-effective.

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