Open window thoracostomy in the management of postpneumonectomy empyema with or without bronchopleural fistula

J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 1983 Dec;86(6):818-22.


Postpneumonectomy empyema, with or without bronchopleural fistula, remains an infrequent but serious complication of pulmonary resection. We reviewed our experience with the Clagett procedure in 31 patients with postpneumonectomy empyema. Seven had empyema alone and 24 had empyema with bronchopleural fistula. Ten patients died of metastatic disease without attempted closure of the thoracostomy window. In eight patients the total Clagett procedure was completed; window closure was permanent in two patients, but the remaining six had recurrence of empyema (four of whom had persistent occult fistulas). In eight further patients, persistent infection prevented attempted closure of the window. Five patients refused further surgical procedures. In only two of 31 patients were we able to achieve permanent closure of the thoracostomy window. Based on this experience, we conclude that open window thoracostomy provides adequate drainage and an excellent interim or permanent treatment of the infected pneumonectomy space. However, the presence of persistent bronchopleural fistula prevents successful completion of the total Clagett procedure. In our series, there were no deaths related to empyema or the surgical procedures performed for it.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Bronchial Fistula / etiology
  • Bronchial Fistula / surgery*
  • Drainage / methods*
  • Empyema / drug therapy
  • Empyema / etiology
  • Empyema / surgery*
  • Fistula / etiology
  • Fistula / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Pleural Diseases / etiology
  • Pleural Diseases / surgery*
  • Pneumonectomy / adverse effects*
  • Therapeutic Irrigation
  • Thoracic Surgery / methods*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents