Image-guided percutaneous drainage of thoracic empyema: can sonography predict the outcome?

Eur Radiol. 2000;10(3):495-9. doi: 10.1007/s003300050083.


The aim of this study was to assess the safety and efficacy of image-guided percutaneous catheter drainage (IGPCD) of thoracic empyemas, and to correlate the outcome of IGPCD with the pre-procedural sonographic appearance. One hundred three patients (74 males and 29 females) with thoracic empyema (age range 1 month to 70 years, median age 28 years) underwent IGPCD. In 63 (61.17%) patients, IGPCD was the primary treatment modality; in 40 (38.84%) patients it was used after unsuccessful intercostal chest tube drainage (ICTD). Ultrasound was the main modality used for guidance; CT guidance was used in only 7 patients (6.8%). Eight- to 12-F pigtail catheters or 10- to 14-F Malecot catheters were used. The outcome was correlated with the pre-procedural US appearance (anechoic, complex non-septated or complex septated) of the empyema. The IGPCD technique was successful in 80 of 102 patients. Based on the US appearance, IGPCD was successful in 12 of 13 (92.3%) patients with anechoic empyemas; 53 of 65 (81.54%) patients with complex non-septated empyemas, and in 15 of 24 (62.5%) patients with complex septated empyemas. A statistically significant difference (p < 0.01) was seen in the outcome of IGPCD in the three categories. Twenty-two patients required further treatment: ICTD (n = 9; 2 of them later also underwent surgery); and surgery (n = 15). The duration of catheter drainage ranged from 2-60 days. No major complications were encountered. Percutaneous catheter drainage of thoracic empyemas with imaging guidance ensures accurate catheter placement with a high success and a low complication rate. Pre-procedural US can predict the likelihood of success of IGPCD.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Catheterization
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Empyema, Pleural / diagnostic imaging*
  • Empyema, Pleural / surgery*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Suction / methods*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Ultrasonography