Background: Thoracic empyema remains a serious problem.
Objective: We evaluated the feasibility and efficacy of video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) for fibropurulent thoracic empyema.
Patients and methods: Twenty-six consecutive patients with thoracic empyema resistant to medical therapy were treated by VATS from 1997 to 2006. The presence of pleural adhesion was not a contraindication. Patients with destroyed lung, bronchopleural fistula, or excessively thickened pleura were excluded.
Results: Twenty-two were males and 4 were females with a mean age of 59 years (range 14 to 85). The length of preoperative period was 39.3 +/- 25.3 days, and the length of preoperative treatment was 11.2 +/- 14.3 days. The operating time was 127.6 +/- 45.1 minutes and intraoperative bleeding was 353.8 +/- 438.4 g. Postoperative complications were observed in two cases (8.0%). There were no hospital deaths. Twenty-two cases (84.6%) were cured with a postoperative drainage time of 12.5 +/- 8.2 days. Four cases required an additional operation. However, the VATS procedure was not required to perform additional thoracoplasty using pedicled chest wall muscles.
Conclusions: VATS for fibropurulent thoracic empyema is effective and less invasive, and it may be important as a bridge between minimally invasive and conventional open thoracic surgical management.