Modern management of thoracic empyema

Matthew T. Bender, Victor A. Ferraris, Sibu P. Saha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Objectives: Historically, surgical management of empyema was performed predominantly via open thoracotomy; however, during the past decade the use of video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) as an alternative has increased. This study retrospectively compared the outcomes and management of patients with empyema at the University of Kentucky Medical Center who had undergone VATS versus those receiving open thoracotomy to determine whether VATS decortication provided comparable results. Methods: Adult patients who had undergone open thoracotomy or VATS decortication for empyema between 2005 and 2009 at the University of Kentucky were identified by querying the hospital's cardiothoracic surgery database. Patients were sorted by procedure on an intent-to-treat basis. Comorbid conditions, preoperative course, operative outcomes, and postoperative outcomeswere compared.Quantitative datawere analyzed with either an unpaired t test or theMannYWhitneyU test. Qualitative data were analyzed using the Fisher exact test. Results: Fifty-three patients were identified, 18 of whom underwent VATS and 35 underwent open thoracotomy. Eight of the 18 VATS procedures (44.4%) were converted to open thoracotomy. Patients undergoing VATS had a significantly shorter median length of stay (11 vs 18 days, respectively; P = 0.044), chest tube duration (6 vs 12 days, respectively; P < 0.001), operative blood loss (55.6 vs 344 mL, respectively; P = 0.003), and fewer postoperative respiratory failures (0% vs 22.9%, respectively; P = 0.0451). The two groups did not differ significantly in overall morbidity, reoperation, mortality, or preoperative comorbidities. Conclusions: In adults,VATS offers results comparable to those of open thoracotomy, and lengths of stay, chest tube durations, and postoperative outcomes are superior. Although the conversion rate of VATS to open thoracotomy at our institution was high (38.1%) compared with studies at other institutions, the data still indicate that VATS is both a safe and reliable alternative to open thoracotomy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-62
Number of pages5
JournalSouthern Medical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2015 by The Southern Medical Association.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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