Study objectives: To determine if therapeutic thoracentesis is as effective as early chest tube placement or no drainage procedure in the treatment of early empyema in rabbits.
Design and interventions: An empyema, as evidenced by gross pleural pus and a decreased pleural fluid pH and glucose level, was induced in 49 rabbits. The rabbits were divided into three groups: 16 underwent daily therapeutic thoracentesis starting at 48 h, 14 underwent chest tube placement at 48 h, and 19 served as controls.
Results: The mortality rate in the therapeutic thoracentesis group (0/16) did not differ significantly from that in the chest tube group (3/14) or that in the control group (6/19). At autopsy at 10 days, the gross empyema score in the therapeutic thoracentesis group (2.1 +/- 0.3) was significantly lower (p < 0.05) than that in the chest tube group (2. 8 +/- 0.3) or the control group (3.5 +/- 0.2). The mean pleural peel score of 5.8 +/- 1.1 in the therapeutic thoracentesis group was significantly less (p < 0.05) than the score for the nonintervention control group (13.4 +/- 1.6).
Conclusions: From this study, we conclude that therapeutic thoracentesis is at least as effective as early chest tube placement for the treatment of early empyema using our rabbit model of empyema.