Early administration of intrapleural streptokinase in the treatment of multiloculated pleural effusions and pleural empyemas

T Laisaar, E Püttsepp, V Laisaar
Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgeon 1996, 44 (5): 252-6
In the treatment of multiloculated pleural effusions and empyemas tube thoracostomy often fails and more aggressive surgical therapy is required. Intrapleural administration of fibrinolytics is a valuable alternative. Between October 1994 and December 1995 28 patients (aged 22 to 62 years) with multiloculated pleural effusions were treated with intrapleural instillations of streptokinase after unsuccessful conventional chest tube drainage. Twenty-three pleural effusions were grossly purulent, others were loculated effusions with low pH. The most common cause of the pleural effusions was pneumonia. Duration of illness before hospitalization was 3 to 105 (mean 21.8) days. Treatment with streptokinase was started most commonly one day after chest tube placement. Once a day after clamping the chest tube streptokinase was administered intrapleurally for 10-15 minutes as a solution of 250,000 units in 100 ml normal saline. The tube remained clamped for 3 hours. Two to 8 (mean 3.7) instillations per patient were needed. Twenty-one cases (72.4%) showed excellent resolution of pleural effusion and needed no more therapy. However, one patient died in hospital due to purulent meningitis and bilateral pneumonia. Eight patients needed further surgical treatment, e.g. decortication, in 5 cases together with wedge lung resection. Eleven patients experienced some adverse effects of streptokinase therapy, most frequently chest pain and elevation of body temperature in one case pleural effusion became hemorrhagic, and one patient had nasal bleeding. We conclude that usage of intrapleural streptokinase in the treatment of multiloculated pleural effusions (including pleural empyemas) reduces the need for major surgical interventions in quite a large group of patients.

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