Management of parapneumonic effusion and empyema: medical thoracoscopy and surgical approach

Respiration. 2011;82(2):193-6. doi: 10.1159/000326337. Epub 2011 Apr 7.


Parapneumonic effusions or empyemas are frequently seen in patients with lower respiratory tract infections. The condition is associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Since Gram stains and bacterial cultures are usually negative, treatment focuses on empiric antibiotic treatment and chest tube drainage. The role of intrapleural fibrinolytics is still a matter of debate. Medical thoracoscopy is a simple and effective therapeutic alternative associated with better outcome and fewer complications than conservative treatment. Furthermore, it can be performed in analgo-sedation in a bronchoscopy suite. Video-assisted thoracic surgery carries the advantage of providing optimal visibility of the pleural cavity, thus allowing better debridement. Thoracotomy is the treatment of choice when thoracoscopic cleaning is not satisfactory.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Drainage / methods
  • Empyema, Pleural / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Pleural Effusion / etiology
  • Pleural Effusion / surgery*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / complications
  • Risk Assessment
  • Thoracic Surgery, Video-Assisted*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents