Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgical decortication in the elderly with thoracic empyema: Five years' experience

Chien-Ho Tsai, Yi-Chun Lai, Shih-Chieh Chang, Cheng-Yu Chang, Wei-Shu Wang, Mei-Kang Yuan
Journal of the Chinese Medical Association: JCMA 2016, 79 (1): 25-8

BACKGROUND: Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) with decortication is a major treatment for thoracic empyema in the fibropurulent stage. Compared to open thoracotomy, VATS decortication has similar efficacy but fewer postoperative complications in the treatment of thoracic empyema. The role of VATS decortication in the elderly had rarely been investigated.

METHODS: From January 2006 to August 2011, we retrospectively enrolled 33 patients older than 65 years diagnosed as thoracic empyema and treated with VATS decortication. We analyzed the outcomes of this geriatric population, including surgical effectiveness, postoperative morbidity, and mortality.

RESULTS: A total of 33 patients with mean age of 73.6 ± 7.1 years received VATS decortication for their empyema. Twenty-one (63.6%) patients were male. Only one patient died of progressive sepsis, due to pulmonary infection 9 days after VATS decortication. The 30-day mortality was 3% after the surgery. The major etiology (87.9%) of thoracic empyema was pneumonia. The main causes of postoperation morbidity included respiratory failure requiring mechanical ventilation for >7 days (15.2%) and septic shock (15.2%), followed by persistent air leakage for >7 days (9.1%). Twenty-four (75%) of 32 patients had good re-expansion of the affected lung 3 months after VATS decortication.

CONCLUSION: We concluded that VATS decortication in the treatment of thoracic empyema is effective in elderly patients. The major concerns of postoperative complications are respiratory failure and sepsis.

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