'Less may be best'-Pediatric parapneumonic effusion and empyema management: Lessons from a UK center

Anna-May Long, Jonathan Smith-Williams, Sarah Mayell, Jon Couriel, Matthew O Jones, Paul D Losty
Journal of Pediatric Surgery 2016, 51 (4): 588-91

BACKGROUND: Children with empyema are managed at our center using a protocol-driven clinical care pathway. Chemical fibrinolysis is deployed as first-line management for significant pleural disease. We therefore examined clinical outcome(s) to benchmark standards of care while analyzing disease severity with introduction of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine.

METHODS: Medical case-records of children managed at a UK pediatric center were surveyed from Jan 2006 to Dec 2012. Binary logistic regression was utilized to study failure of fibrinolytic therapy. The effects of age, comorbidity, number of days of intravenous antibiotics prior to drainage and whether initial imaging showed evidence of necrotizing disease were also studied.

RESULTS: A total of 239 children were treated [age range 4months-19years; median 4years]. A decreasing number of patients presenting year-on-year since 2006 with complicated pleural infections was observed. The majority of children were successfully managed without surgery using antibiotics alone (27%) or a fine-bore chest-drain and urokinase (71%). Only 2% of cases required primary thoracotomy. 14.7% cases failed fibrinolysis and required a second intervention. The only factor predictive of failure and need for surgery was suspicion of necrotizing disease on initial imaging (P=0.002, OR 8.69).

CONCLUSION: Pediatric patients with pleural empyema have good outcomes when clinical care is led by a multidisciplinary team and protocol driven care pathway. Using a 'less is best' approach few children require surgery.

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