Thoracoscopic drainage and decortication as definitive treatment for empyema thoracis following penetrating chest injury

J O'Brien, M Cohen, R Solit, R Solit, G Lindenbaum, J Finnegan, J Vernick
Journal of Trauma 1994, 36 (4): 536-9; discussion 539-40

PURPOSE: The purpose of this study is to describe our experience with thoracoscopic drainage and decortication as definitive treatment for empyema thoracis following penetrating chest trauma.

METHODS: Over a 9-month period, eight patients at two institutions were treated for empyema thoracis that developed following penetrating chest injury. Seven patients sustained gunshot wounds and one a stab wound. All were treated for hemothorax with a closed tube thoracostomy. Associated injuries included six spinal cord injuries, a liver and diaphragmatic injury, a subclavian injury, and a carotid injury. Each patient subsequently developed an empyema. All patients underwent one thoracoscopic drainage and decortication of the empyema.

RESULTS: In all patients, complete resolution of the empyema was achieved with the thoracoscopic technique. Chest tubes were removed a median of 8.5 days after the procedure. Median blood loss was 200 mL. The average duration of the operation was 110 minutes. There were two complications, a persistent air leak and a trapped lung, both treated with thoracoscopic intervention.

CONCLUSION: Thoracoscopic drainage and decortication offers an alternative to thoracotomy for definitive therapy of empyema thoracis developing after penetrating chest trauma.

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