Is Medical Thoracoscopy Efficient in the Management of Multiloculated and Organized Thoracic Empyema?
Background: Pleural empyema can be subdivided into 3 stages: exudative, multiloculated, and organizing. In the absence of clear septation, antibiotics plus simple drainage of pleural fluid is often sufficient treatment, whereas clear septation often requires more invasive treatment. Objectives: The aim of this study was to report our experience and analyze the safety and efficacy of medical thoracoscopy in patients with multiloculated and organizing empyema. Methods: We performed a retrospective study reviewing the files of patients referred for empyema and treated by medical thoracoscopy at our department from July 2005 to February 2011. Results: A total of 41 patients with empyema were treated by medical thoracoscopy; empyema was free flowing in 9 patients (22%), multiloculated in 24 patients (58.5%), and organized in 8 patients (19.5%). Medical thoracoscopy was considered successful without further intervention in 35 of 41 patients (85.4%): all of the 9 patients with free-flowing fluid, 22 of the 24 patients with multiloculated empyema (91.7%), and only 4 of the 8 patients with organizing effusion (50%). Conclusions: Our study confirms that multiloculated pleural empyema could safely and successfully be treated with medical thoracoscopy while organizing empyema can be resistant to drainage with medical thoracoscopy, requiring video-assisted thoracic surgery or open surgical decortications; among this population, the presence of separate 'pockets' not in apparent communication with each other often leads to a surgical approach.