Open thoracic window: a useful alternative for retained infected pleural collections in critically ill trauma patients

Eddy H Carrillo, David J Barkoe, Rafael Sanchez, Seong K Lee, Andrew Rosenthal, Antonio Pepe, Dawn Nardiello
American Surgeon 2009, 75 (2): 152-6
Historically, tube thoracostomy, image-guided drainage, or an open thoracotomy has been indicated as the standard procedure for the management of patients with retained infected pleural collections (RIPC). These infections can be a debilitating and potentially lethal complication in already critically ill trauma patients. The purpose of this review was to evaluate the usefulness of an open thoracic window (OTW) as definitive therapy for the management of RIPC refractory to conventional therapies. The medical records of patients who underwent an OTW for RIPC were reviewed for the following: demographic data, primary diagnosis, clinical findings that explained the failure of the conventional management, bacteriology of the retained collection, and final outcome. Over a 3-year period, eight critically ill trauma patients who had sustained multiple system trauma and developed a RIPC were identified (six males and two females; average age, 47 years). Of the eight patients identified, six collections were in the right and two in the left pleural cavity. Staphylococcus aureus and Acinetobacter were the two most common bacterial isolates from these collections. All patients had undergone multiple and unsuccessful drainage attempts by thoracostomy tubes. Additionally, two of the patients also underwent image-guided drainage procedures, which proved to be unsuccessful. After creation of the OTW, all patients had complete resolution of the RIPC, and all were discharged alive from the hospital. During outpatient follow up, the OTW was found to have completely healed and required no further surgical intervention. The creation of long-term pleural drainage, with an OTW, facilitates and expedites the resolution of persistent infected pleural collections by providing more efficient surgical drainage and mechanical débridement. Our experience also shows this uncommon operation to be an effective alternative when conventional measures have failed.

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