Purpose: Nineteen children had early thoracoscopic intervention for empyema between 1992 and 1997 at the LeBonheur Children's Medical Center. The authors have evaluated the results of this treatment.
Methods: Thoracoscopic intervention was performed at the fibrinopurulent state of empyema. An irrigating laparoendoscope was inserted, loculi were disrupted, debris was evacuated, and a chest tube was passed through the port site.
Results: The patients were aged between 11 months and 16 years (mean, 6.5 years). The etiology of the empyema was parapneumonic in 17, and there was one case each of perforated appendicitis and mediastinal histoplasmosis. They underwent thoracoscopy at a mean of 4.6 days after hospital admission (range, 1 to 12 days). Chest tubes were removed at 1 to 5 days (mean, 2.9 days) after operation, and resolution of fever occurred at 1 to 9 days (mean, 3.8 days) postoperatively. Patients were discharged home between 4 and 10 days (mean, 6.1 days) postoperatively, and the mean hospital stay was 10.3 days (range, 5 to 21). There were no complications. The surgical technique was simple and well tolerated, requiring few disposable items, and the mean operating time was 77 minutes.
Conclusions: Thoracoscopy eliminated the morbidity of thoracotomy and the discomfort and expense of prolonged chest tube drainage. Thoracoscopy may be used as early first-line therapy in a majority of pediatric patients with fibrinopurulent empyema.