Objective: To present our method of treating pleural infection by using a combination of image-guided chest tube drainage and intrapleural fibrinolytics.
Patients and methods: We retrospectively reviewed the medical charts and radiographs of 30 consecutive patients with pleural infection who were seen at our institution from December 15, 1995, to July 1, 2006, 27 of whom received intrapleural urokinase or tissue-type plasminogen activator. End points were death, length of stay in the hospital, and percentage of patients who needed surgery.
Results: Placement of chest tubes required image guidance 45.7% of the time. Three patients (10%; 95% confidence interval, 2.1%-26.5%) died of complications from pleural infection. None of the 30 patients (0%; 95% confidence interval, 0%-9.5%) required surgery for treatment of pleural infection. The median hospital length of stay was 11 days.
Conclusions: In the treatment of pleural infection, intrapleural urokinase or tissue-type plasminogen activator in combination with careful image-guided placement of chest tubes is highly effective in resolving the effusion and curing the infection.