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Is Thoracoscopic Decortication Sufficient for the Treatment of Empyema?

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Before thoracoscopy became popular in the 1990s, thoracotomy and decortication was the treatment of choice for empyema thoracis not responding to tube thoracostomy. An Institutional Review Board-approved, retrospective review of all patients treated for empyema between September 1, 2006, and August 31, 2009, at Kern Medical Center was conducted. A total of 37 patients (male = 33; female = 4) with a mean age of 43.7 years were treated. Empyema developed after community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) in 27, traumatic hemothorax (TH) in nine, and other cause in one. For 34 of 36 patients (91%), a thoracoscopic approach was successful. Two of 36 patients required conversion to thoracotomy, whereas one patient required an initial thoracotomy in each case as a result of tenacious adhesions. Mean duration of the chest tube was 4.1 days in patients with CAP and 4.6 days in patients with TH. Mean length of stay after surgery was 6 days for patients with CAP and 9.1 days for patients with TH. Five of 37(13.5%) had complications and one patient died (2.7%). Follow-up was complete for 81.1 per cent of patients, none of whom required a subsequent intervention. Compared with the literature, it appears that the conversion rate to thoracotomy, length of chest tube duration, and postoperative length of stay have decreased as experience has increased.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: From the Department of Surgery, Kern Medical Center, Bakersfield, California, USA

Publication date: October 1, 2010

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  • The Southeastern Surgical Congress owns and publishes The American Surgeon monthly. It is the official journal of the Congress and the Southern California Chapter of the American College of Surgeons, which all members receive each month. The journal brings up to date clinical advances in surgical knowledge in a popular reference format. In addition to publishing papers presented at the annual meetings of the associated organizations, the journal publishes selected unsolicited manuscripts. If you have a manuscript you'd like to see published in The American Surgeon select "Information for Authors" from the Related Information options below. A Copyright Release Form must accompany all manuscripts submitted.
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