The clinical courses of 35 tuberculous empyema patients were investigated retrospectively from November 1990 through November 1995. Most patients had nonspecific symptoms and signs but with far-advanced pulmonary parenchymal lesions in their chest roentgenographs. The effusions showed neutrophilic leukocytosis with a 60% positive culture rate for Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Multidrug resistant strains were found in 7 out of 18 cultures. All patients received chemotherapy and eight of them underwent additional surgical management. Twenty-two (62.9%) patients had been treated successfully and one patient is still under treatment. The remaining 12 patients either died during treatment or defaulted; and four (11.4%) of them had died of tuberculosis. We conclude that the treatment outcome of tuberculous empyema is less satisfactory than that of pulmonary tuberculosis, however, modern multidrug chemotherapy with repeated drainage and opportune surgical interventions could be in prospect of successful treatment of tuberculous empyema.