East and Central African Journal of Surgery

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Thoracic empyema: Cause and Treatment Outcome at Gondar University Teaching Hospital, Northwest Ethiopia

A Amare, B Ayele, D Mekonnen


Background: Despite improved antimicrobial therapy and multiple options for drainage of infected pleural space, thoracic empyema (TE) continues to cause significant morbidity and mortality. The objectives of this study were to assess the causes and treatment outcome of patients with thoracic empyema.

Methods: Patients aged ≥ 13year with TE who were admitted to Gondar University Teaching Hospital, Northwest Ethiopia, from Nov 1999 to Dec 2007 were included. Retrospectively, medical records were reviewed and demographic and clinical data were collected.

Results: Records of 81 patients were analyzed; majority (82%) were below the age 50 year. The mean duration of symptoms prior to presentation and hospital stay was 97.4 and 38days, respectively. HIV/AIDS was detected in 60%. Causes of empyema were pulmonary tuberculosis (56%), pneumonia (36%) and lung abscess (7%). Closed chest tube was inserted in 86% of cases and was successful in 93% of them. Case-fatality was 12% and poor outcome occurred in 26%.

Conclusions: Early identification of TE and aggressive management with antibiotics or antituberculosis, drainage with chest tube, and surgical treatment when closed tube drainage fails is recommended to improve the high mortality and morbidity.

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