Intrapleural tissue plasminogen activator and deoxyribonuclease for pleural infection. An effective and safe alternative to surgery

Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2014 Nov;11(9):1419-25. doi: 10.1513/AnnalsATS.201407-329OC.


Rationale: Intrapleural tissue plasminogen activator (tPA)/deoxyribonuclease (DNase) therapy for pleural infection given at the time of diagnosis has been shown to significantly improve radiological outcomes. Published cases are limited to only a single randomized controlled trial and a few case reports.

Objectives: Multinational observation series to evaluate the pragmatic "real-life" application of tPA/DNase treatment for pleural infection in a large cohort of unselected patients.

Methods: All patients from eight centers who received intrapleural tPA/DNase for pleural infection between January 2010 and September 2013 were included. Measured outcomes included treatment success at 30 days, volume of pleural fluid drained, improvement in radiographic pleural opacity and inflammatory markers, need for surgery, and adverse events.

Measurements and main results: Of 107 patients treated, the majority (92.3%) were successfully managed without the need for surgical intervention. No patients died as a result of pleural infection. Most patients (84%) received tPA/DNase more than 24 hours after failing to respond to initial conservative management with antibiotics and thoracostomy. tPA/DNase increased fluid drained from a median of 250 ml (interquartile range [IQR], 100-654) in the 24 hours preceding commencement of intrapleural therapy to 2,475 ml (IQR 1,800-3,585) in the 72 hours following treatment initiation (P < 0.05). We observed a corresponding clearance of pleural opacity on chest radiographs from a median of 35% (IQR 25-31) to 14% (7-28) of the hemithorax (P < 0.001), as well as significant reduction in C-reactive protein (P < 0.05). Pain necessitating escalation of analgesia occurred in 19.6% patients, and nonfatal bleeding occurred in 1.8%.

Conclusions: This large series of patients who received intrapleural tPA/DNase therapy provides important evidence that the treatment is effective and safe, especially as a "rescue therapy" in patients who do not initially respond to antibiotics and thoracostomy drainage.

Keywords: deoxyribonuclease; empyema; fibrinolytic; infection; pleural; tissue plasminogen activator.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • C-Reactive Protein / analysis
  • Deoxyribonucleases / therapeutic use*
  • Drainage
  • Empyema, Pleural / drug therapy*
  • Empyema, Pleural / surgery
  • Female
  • Fibrinolytic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Instillation, Drug
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Radiography, Thoracic
  • Tissue Plasminogen Activator / therapeutic use*


  • Fibrinolytic Agents
  • C-Reactive Protein
  • Deoxyribonucleases
  • Tissue Plasminogen Activator