Objective: The optimal treatment of pediatric empyema remains controversial. The objective of this study is to compare the use of conventional management versus primary thoracoscopic drainage and decortication in children with empyema.
Methods: Conventional management has consisted of chest drain insertion under general anesthesia plus intravenous antibiotics. Thoracoscopic drainage and decortication has consisted of primary thoracoscopic drainage and decortication plus antibiotics. The clinical course of 54 patients treated conventionally between 1989 and 1997 was compared with that of 21 patients treated by means of thoracoscopic drainage and decortication between September 2000 and September 2001.
Results: Results of the study demonstrated that patients in the drainage-decortication group had fewer invasive interventions per patient than those in the conventional management group (1.0 vs 1.26). Patients undergoing thoracoscopic drainage and decortication also had significantly shorter durations of intravenous antibiotic therapy (7.6 +/- 1.2 vs 18.2 +/- 7.5 days), chest tube drainage (4.0 +/- 0.5 vs 10.2 +/- 6.1 days), and hospital stays (7.4 +/- 0.8 vs 15.4 +/- 7.4). Moreover, there were no open thoracotomies and decortications in the thoracoscopic drainage and decortication group, whereas in the conventional management group 39% (21/54) of patients underwent an open procedure.
Conclusion: Although the 2 groups were not prospectively randomized and they were treated in different time periods, the results of this study support the use of thoracoscopic surgery as the primary therapeutic modality in children presenting with pleural empyema. This strategy appears to offer significant benefits over conventional treatment in terms of duration of treatment and the need for more invasive surgery.