Thoracotomy and decortication: impact of culture-positive empyema on the outcome of surgery

Lawrence Okiror, Cordelia Coltart, Andrea Bille, Lucy Guile, John Pilling, Karen Harrison-Phipps, Tom Routledge, Loic Lang-Lazdunski, Carolyn Hemsley, Juliet King

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19 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVES: This study aimed to assess the efficacy of thoracotomy and decortication (T/D) in achieving lung re-expansion in patients with Stage III empyema and assess the impact of culture-positive empyema on the outcome of decortication.

METHODS: This is a retrospective observational study of consecutive patients treated with T/D over a 6-year period.

RESULTS: A total of 107 consecutive patients were identified. The median age was 55 (range 16-86) years; of which, 86% were male. The median length of hospital stay was 9 (range 2-45) days. Full lung re-expansion was achieved in 86% of cases. There were no postoperative deaths. Pleural cultures were positive in 56 (52%) cases. Patients with culture-positive empyema had a longer duration of pleural drainage (median of 11 days, range 3-112 versus median of 5 days, range 3-29 days for negative culture; P = 0.0004), longer length of hospital stay (median of 11 days, range 4-45 versus median of 7 days, range 2-34 days; P = 0.0002) and more complications (P = 0.0008), respectively. There was no statistically significant difference in the outcome of surgery, i.e. lung re-expansion versus trapped lung (P = 0.08) between the two groups.

CONCLUSIONS: T/D is safe and achieved lung re-expansion in the majority of patients. Culture-positive empyema was associated with worse outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)901-906
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean journal of cardio-thoracic surgery : official journal of the European Association for Cardio-thoracic Surgery
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014


  • Bacterial culture
  • Stage III empyema
  • Thoracotomy and decortication


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