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Clinical outcome of parapneumonic empyema in children treated according to a standardized medical treatment


Treatment of parapneumonic empyema (PE) consists of intravenous antibiotics and, in case of large effusions and persisting fever, pleural chest drain (±intrapleural fibrinolytics) or video-assisted surgical intervention. We standardized the treatment for PE in our tertiary care center choosing a first-step nonsurgical approach. The aim was to evaluate the need for surgery and to collect data on disease course, outcome, and microbiology. For all children treated for PE between 2006 and 2013, data were prospectively collected concerning treatment, length of stay, duration of fever, complications, and causative agent. Of 132 children treated for PE, 20 % needed surgical intervention. Analyzed per year, the need for surgery decreased from almost 40 % in 2007 to 0 % in 2010 again increasing to 40 % although this did not reach statistical significance (p = 0.115). Median duration of “in-hospital fever” was 5 days (IQR, 3–8). The duration of fever correlated with pleural LDH (r = 0.324; p = 0.002) and pleural glucose (r = −0.248; p = 0.021) and was inversely correlated with pleural pH (r = −0.249; p = 0.046). Based on pleural PCR data, 85 % of PE were caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae (40 % serotype 1). Conclusion: After introduction of a standardized primary medical approach (chest drain ± fibrinolysis) for PE in our institution, the need for surgical rescue interventions overall remained at 20 %, which is higher than in some other reports. Difference in microbiology or disease severity could not be proven.

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Length of stay


Parapneumonic empyema




Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery


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Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest. This is a nonsponsored study.

Author information

Correspondence to Marijke Proesmans.

Additional information

Communicated by Peter de Winter

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Proesmans, M., Gijsens, B., Van de Wijdeven, P. et al. Clinical outcome of parapneumonic empyema in children treated according to a standardized medical treatment. Eur J Pediatr 173, 1339–1345 (2014).

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  • Empyema
  • Children
  • Treatment
  • Etiology