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[Parapneumonic pleural effusions and empyema in adults:current practice].

About 20% of hospitalized patients with bacterial pneumonia have an accompanying pleural effusion. Parapneumonic effusions (PPE) are associated with a considerable morbidity and mortality. The main decision in managing a patient with a PPE is whether to insert a chest tube (complicated PPE). Imaging (i.e., chest radiograph, ultrasound and computed tomography) and pleural fluid analysis (i.e., pH, glucose, lactate dehydrogenase, bacterial cults) provide essential information for patient management. Therefore, all PPEs should be aspirated for diagnostic purposes. This may require image-guidance if the effusion is small or heavily loculated. According to the current guidelines, any PPE that fulfills at least one of the following criteria should be drained: size > or = 1/2 of the hemithorax, loculations, pleural fluid pH < 7.20 (or alternatively pleural fluid glucose < 60 mg/dl), positive pleural fluid Gram stain or culture, or purulent appearance. The key components of the treatment of complicated PPE and empyema are the use of appropriate antibiotics, provision of nutritional support, and drainage of the pleural space by one of the following methods: therapeutic thoracentesis, tube thoracostomy, intrapleural fibrinolytics, thoracoscopy with breakdown of adhesions or thoracotomy with decortication. The routine use of intrapleural fibrinolytic therapy remains controversial. (c) 2009 Elsevier España, S.L. All rights reserved.

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