Background: Thoracic empyema is a disease of significant morbidity and mortality, especially in the developing world where tuberculosis remains a common cause. Clinical outcomes in tuberculous empyema are complicated by the presence of concomitant fibrocavitary parenchymal disease and frequent bronchopleural fistulae. We performed a prospective study over a one-and-a-half-year period with the objective of comparing the clinical profiles and outcomes of patients with tuberculous and nontuberculous empyema.
Materials and methods: A prospective study of adult cases of nonsurgical thoracic empyema admitted in a tertiary care hospital in eastern India was performed over a period of 18 months. A comparative analysis of clinical characteristics, treatment modalities, and outcomes of patients with tuberculous and nontuberculous empyema was carried out.
Results: Seventy-five cases of empyema were seen during the study period, of which 46 (61.3%) were of nontuberculous etiology while tuberculosis constituted 29 (38.7%) cases. Among the nontuberculous empyema patients, Staphylococcus aureus (11, 23.93%) was the most frequent pathogen isolated, followed by Gram-negative bacilli. Tuberculous empyema was more frequent in younger population compared to nontuberculous empyema (mean age of 32.7 years vs. 46.5 years). Duration of illness and mean duration of chest tube drainage were longer (48.7 vs. 23.2 days) in patients with tuberculous empyema. Also the presence of parenchymal lesions and bronchopleural fistula often requiring surgical drainage procedures was more in tuberculous empyema patients.
Conclusion: Tuberculous empyema remains a common cause of empyema thoracis in a country like India. Tuberculous empyema differs from nontuberculous empyema in the age profile, clinical presentation, management issues, and has a significantly poorer outcome.
Keywords: Bronchopleural fistula; empyema; parapneumonic effusion; tuberculous empyema.