Initial treatment of septated parapneumonic empyema with drainage plus fibrinolytic agents is equally effective as video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery, and is suitable as first-line therapy
It is thought that 0.6-2% of cases of pneumonia in children are complicated by parapneumonic empyema. The mainstay treatment options for empyema are pleural chest drainage plus fibrinolysis or video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS). Marhuenda et al. reported the results of a prospective, multicenter, clinical trial in which patients with parapneumonic empyema were randomized to either drainage plus urokinase or to VATS. That showed that the median postoperative stay, median hospital stay, and number of febrile days after treatment were not significantly different between the VATS group and the urokinase group. Only three other prospective randomized trials have been conducted with the same objective. The results in these studies had partially different among four trials. But all studies described that it is apparent that VATS is not more effective than fibrinolytic treatment. Intrapleural fibrinolytic treatment, which is much less invasive and lower inexpensive than VATS, is an effective and safe alternative to surgical treatment of complicated empyema. VATS would be reserved for patients who fail to respond to chemical/enzymatic debridement. We need additional randomized controlled trials with relevant inclusion/exclusion criteria and adequate sample sizes to determine the optimal therapy for parapneumonic-complicated empyema in children.