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Thoracoscopic management of empyema

Epublication WebSurg.com, Oct 2013;13(10). URL: http://websurg.com/doi/vd01en4031

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From the mid-1990s, thoracoscopic treatment of empyemas has gained a wide acceptance. Potential advantages of video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) include improved visualization, less surgical trauma and improved quality of life. VATS was initially used in early stage empyema to debride purulent collections and resect fibrin septae that failed to resolve with antibiotics and chest tube drainage (with or without fibrinolytic therapy). The goals of the thoracoscopic treatment of empyema are as follows: 1) the debridement of purulent collections and fibrin, 2) the evacuation of necrotic material, 3) the breakdown of loculations, 4) to obtain adequate lung re-expansion, and 5) optimal chest tube placement for drainage. Several reports have demonstrated that VATS debridement is a valid treatment option for stage II empyema, which allows an appropriate control of infection and a complete restoration of pulmonary function in early stage empyemas. Formal exclusion criteria for a primary VATS approach are suspicion of lung abscess, bronchopleural fistula, tumor at initial work-up or the need of muscle flaps with or without thoracoplasty. Presumed stage III empyema with pleural thickening and signs of restriction on CT-scan no longer are formal contraindications, but the conversion rate to decortications via thoracotomy is higher.