Background Pleural empyema has a high morbidity and mortality. Until now it is not clear which method is best to initially drain the pus, especially in complicated effusions with septa.
The objective of this study is to compare the standard treatment of simple chest tube drainage to early mini-invasive medical thoracoscopy. In earlier studies medical thoracoscopy has been a safe and effective method in pleural diseases. However there is no prospective data available.
Methods We conduct a prospective randomized controlled multicenter study on 100 patients with complicated parapneumonic effusions with septa or empyema with frank pus. Patients will be randomized to receive either simple chest tube drainage or early medical thoracoscopy. The latter will be performed in local anaesthesia and analgosedation according to the standards set by the European Study on Medical Video-Assisted Thoracoscopy (ESMEVAT)-group. Fibrinolysis will be used routinely. In 20 patients a nested study on the intrapleural pharmacokinetics of linezolid as antibiotic agent will be performed.
Follow-up will be structured on day 1, day 7, before discharge and after 3 months including chest radiographs and clinical and laboratory evaluations.
Outcome Primary outcome will be medical cure without the need of secondary intervention or death.
As secondary outcome we will measure duration of hospital stay, adverse events.
Provisional agenda Start of study: October 2005 End of study: October 2007
Potential outcome & benefit The study should clarify the role of early medical thoracoscopy in patients with complicated parapneumonic effusions or pleural empyema. Different authors have speculated that early intervention could be preferable. On the other hand, in many centres worldwide patients are primarily treated by a simple chest tube with or without pleural fibrinolysis. In case of failure of simple drainage, but this means several "precious" days later, a more invasive procedure is needed. At that moment tight pleural septa have formed, and often a surgical VATS or thoracotomy in general anaesthesia becomes necessary. Therefore, this pivotal study could lead to changes in the management of patients with pleural empyema.