Arch Dis Child 88:918-921 doi:10.1136/adc.88.10.918
  • Acute paediatrics

Management of thoracic empyema in childhood: does the pleural thickening matter?

  1. B Satish,
  2. M Bunker,
  3. P Seddon
  1. Royal Alexandra Hospital for Sick Children, Brighton, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr P Seddon, Royal Alexandra Hospital for Sick Children, Dyke Road, Brighton BN1 3JN, UK
  • Accepted 24 October 2002


Aims: To determine the clinical course and long term outcome of empyema treated without decortication.

Methods: Fourteen consecutive admissions to one hospital were studied; radiological resolution and lung function were subsequently followed. The children were aged 2–14 years. All were treated with intravenous antibiotics and chest drain only.

Results: All patients had extensive pleural thickening evident on chest x ray examination at the time of discharge, which resolved entirely over a period of 2–16 months. Lung function was measured in 13 children, and showed no evidence of restrictive or obstructive deficit: mean (SD) values as per cent predicted for height were: forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) 107.5 (9.6), forced vital capacity (FVC) 95.5 (8.8), total lung capacity (TLC) 98.6 (20.7). Individual children all had values in the normal range (80–120 per cent predicted).

Conclusion: Results suggest that decortication is not necessary in children to prevent long term problems with pleural thickening, and should be undertaken on the basis of the clinical picture (failure of fever resolution), rather than radiological appearance.