JOURNAL ARTICLE
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[The role of VATS in the treatment of thoracic empyema].

INTRODUCTION: Videothoracoscopy (VTS) and video-assisted thoracoscopic (VATS) decortication is commonly used in the treatment of early thoracic empyema. However, its conversion to thoracotomy is more frequent in chronic empyema cases. The authors evaluate the role of VTS/VATS in the pleural empyema therapy in the group of patients treated for thoracic empyema using VATS or thoracotomic decortication.

PATIENTS, METHOD AND RESULTS: The retrospective study included 165 patients who underwent surgery for thoracic empyema. Pneumonia was the the commonest cause of pleural empyema (77%), while elective lung and esophageal surgery resulted in pleural empyema in 11% of the subjects, trauma in 9% and intraabdominal infection in 3% of the subjects. The subjects were diagnosed with thoracic empyema stage II or III either prior to the procedure on CT examination, or during the procedure. VTS/VATS was indicated in 52 subjects, and conversion to open decortication was required in 23 of them. Open thoracotomic decortication was performed in 113 subjects. VTS/VATS was successful in stage II disorders, in particular in the removal of pus and fibrin, with targeted chest drain insertion. VATS decortication was performed in 15 subjects with stage II or early stage III disorders. In open decortications, the procedure was extended to lung resection (8x lobectomy and 10x wedge non-anatomical resection) for residual abscess pneumonia or lung abscess. Conservatively managed postoperative complications included protracted chest drain air leak (11 patients) and fluidothorax relapses which were treated with redrainage (8 patients). Early postoperative rethoracotomy was indicated in 6 patients for hemothorax, resulting from hemocoagulation disorder in septic conditions. 4 patients were indicated for rethoracotomy for empyema relapses. During the postoperative period, 6 patients exited in the open decortication group.

CONCLUSION: VTS is the method of choice in the treatment of stage II thoracic empyema, with a potential for the infectious focus removal, targeted drainage and lung reexpansion. VATS is an alternative thoracotomy method for decortication in the early stage III empyema. Decortication via thoracotomy is a standard treatment method for the management of chronic empyema.

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