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Management of parapneumonic effusion and empyema
  1. T N Hilliard,
  2. A J Henderson,
  3. S C Langton Hewer
  1. Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr S C Langton Hewer, Department of Respiratory Medicine, Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, Upper Maudlin Street, Bristol Children’s Hospital, Bristol BS2 8BJ, UK;


Aims: To gather data on the clinical presentation of parapneumonic effusion and empyema and to examine the effect of different management strategies on short term outcomes.

Methods: Retrospective case note review of 48 children admitted to a tertiary unit between January 1998 and March 2001. Effusions were classified into three stages dependent on ultrasound findings.

Results: The stage of effusion was not associated with duration of previous symptoms or length of previous admission. An interventional procedure was performed on median day 2 of admission in 46 children: eight (17%) had an intercostal drain alone, 14 (29%) had an intercostal drain followed by intrapleural fibrinolytic therapy, and 24 (50%) had a thoracotomy. Three children who had an initial intercostal drain alone returned to theatre for thoracotomy, and two children who had intrapleural fibrinolysis returned for thoracotomy. Median length of stay (interquartile range) for each initial procedure was 15 days (6–20) for intercostal drain alone, 8 days (6–12) for fibrinolytic therapy, and 6.5 days (5–9) for thoracotomy. Stay for intercostal drain alone was significantly longer than for thoracotomy.

Conclusion: Early surgical management of empyema is associated with a favourable outcome.

  • empyema
  • respiratory tract infection
  • thoracotomy
  • fibrinolysis
  • thoracostomy

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