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Open window thoracostomy followed by intrathoracic flap transposition in the treatment of empyema complicating pulmonary resection

Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery
DOI: 10.1067/mtc.2000.106837
  • Medicine


Abstract Objective: Successful treatment of postoperative empyema remains a challenge for thoracic surgeons. We report herein our 12-year experience in the management of this condition by means of open window thoracostomy. Methods: Open window thoracostomy was used in the treatment of 46 patients with empyema complicating pulmonary resection. A bronchopleural fistula was associated in 39 of 46 cases. Previous operations included pneumonectomy (n = 30), bilobectomy (n = 5), lobectomy (n = 9), and wedge resection (n = 2) performed for benign (n = 10) or malignant (n = 36) disease. In 10 patients open window thoracostomy was definitive because of patient death (n = 2), concomitant major illness (n = 2), tumor recurrence (n = 4), spontaneous closure (n = 1), or patient choice (n = 1). In 36 cases intrathoracic flap transposition was eventually performed. Muscular (n = 29), omental (n = 5), or combined muscular and omental (n = 2) flaps were used to obliterate the thoracostomy cavity and to close a possibly associated bronchopleural fistula. In 9 patients with postpneumonectomy cavities too wide to be filled by the available flaps, a limited thoracoplasty represented an intermediate step. Results: Among patients treated with definitive open window thoracostomy, local control of the infection was achieved in all the survivors (8/8). After open window thoracostomy and subsequent flap transposition, success (definitive closure of the thoracostomy and, if present, of the bronchopleural fistula) was achieved in 27 (75.0%) of 36 patients. Four initial failures could be salvaged by means of reoperation (initial reopening of thoracostomy and subsequent muscular or omental transposition). Conclusion: Open window thoracostomy followed by intrathoracic muscle or omental transposition represents a valid therapeutic option in patients with empyema complicating pulmonary resections. (J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg 2000;120:270-5)

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