JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery for fibrinopurulent pleural empyema in 67 patients.

BACKGROUND: The roles of different drainage procedures in the management of empyema have to be redefined now that video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) has been introduced. The debridement of fibrinopurulent stage II empyema with the use of VATS was assessed prospectively in regard to control of infection and restoration of pulmonary function.

METHODS: Between January 1992 and May 1996, all patients at our institution with fibrinopurulent empyema that did not respond to chest tube drainage and antibiotic therapy were treated by debridement with the use of VATS. The patients were followed up prospectively by clinical and radiologic assessments 3 and 6 months after the operation and by spirometry 6 months after the operation.

RESULTS: Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery was initiated in 67 patients, but conversion to open decortication was required because of the finding of advanced disease in 19 patients (28%). Forty-eight patients underwent successful debridement with the use of VATS. The mean operative time was 82.1 minutes (range, 50 to 135 minutes), the mean duration of postoperative chest tube placement was 4.1 days (range, 2 to 8 days), and the mean duration of postoperative hospitalization was 12.3 days (range, 4 to 42 days). No wound infections were observed during the postoperative course. Both the 30-day mortality rate and the recurrence (ie, need for thoracotomy) rate were 4%. The mean predicted vital capacity was 84.8% +/- 14.9% and the mean predicted forced expiratory volume in 1 second was 88.6% +/- 19.2% 6 months after the operation.

CONCLUSIONS: Debridement with the use of VATS is safe and efficient for stage II empyema, but open decortication should be used for more advanced disease.

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