A randomized trial of empyema therapy

Michael A. Wait, Sashi Sharma, Joyce Hohn, Anthony Dal Nogare

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

318 Scopus citations


Study objectives: To determine the optimal treatment of empyema thoracis (within the fibrinopurulent phase of illness) comparing pleural drainage and fibrinolytic therapy vs video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS), with regard to efficacy and duration of hospitalization. Design: Twenty patients with confirmed parapneumonic empyema thoracis were randomized to chest tube pleural drainage plus streptokinase (CT-SK) vs VATS. Setting: University- based teaching hospital providing for Dallas County. Patients and methods: Equivalent groups of patients with parapneumonic empyema thoracis were randomized to receive either of two therapies: CT-SK (n=9) or VATS (n= 11). Outcomes analysis with respect to treatment efficacy, hospital duration, chest tube duration, hospital costs, and need for subsequent procedures was performed. Results: Each group suffered one mortality (p=not significant). When compared with the CT-SK group, the VATS group had a significantly higher primary treatment success [10/11, 91% vs 4/9, 44%; p<0.05 Fisher's Exact Test], lower chest tube duration (5.8±1.1 vs 9.8±1.3 days; p=0.13), and lower number of total hospital days (8.7±0.9 vs 12.8± 1.1 days; p=0.009). Clinically relevant but not statistically significant differences in hospital costs ($16,642±2,841 vs $24,052±3,466, p =0.11) also favored the VATS group. Of note, all the CT-SK treatment failures could be salvaged with VATS, and none required thoracotomy. Conclusions: In patients with loculated, complex fibrinopurulent parapneumonic empyema thoracis, a primary treatment strategy of VATS is associated with a higher efficacy, shorter hospital duration, and less cost than a treatment strategy that utilizes catheter- directed fibrinolytic therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1548-1551
Number of pages4
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1997


  • Empyema
  • Streptokinase
  • VATS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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