Background: Empyema remains a cause of morbidity and mortality. Thoracoscopy has proved its versatility in the management of pleural space disorders. The suitability of video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) for decortication in the management of the fibrotic stage of empyema is unclear. Methods: VATS evacuation of empyema and decortication was performed on seventeen patients presenting with pleural space infections. A retrospective review was performed and constitutes the basis of this report. Results: VATS evacuation of empyema and decortication was successfully performed in 13 of 17 patients. Blood loss was 325 ± 331 cc. Mean hospital stay was 18 ± 10 days. Postoperative hospitalization was 11 ± 7 days. Chest tubes remained in place for 7 ± 3 days. There were no operative mortalities. Conclusions: Video-assisted evacuation of empyema and decortication is an effective modality in the management of the exudative and fibrinopurulent stages of empyema. An organized empyema should be approached thoracoscopically, but may require open decortication. (C) 2000 by Excerpta Medica, Inc.
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