The evaluation of image-guided catheter drainage in pleural effusion and empyema

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Background: Pleural fluid collections may pose a difficult therapeutic problem. Complete drainage of complicated effusions or empyemas and reexpansion of atelectatic lung are important in obtaining a satisfactory clinical outcome. The usual approach to the diagnosis and treatment of patients with pleural effusion and empyema has been with needle thoracentesis and chest tube drainage. With chest tube drainage, technical difficulties and failures may occur as a result of improper tube drainage, particularly when there is a loculation or multiple and inaccessible collections. Fluoroscopic or sonographic guidance facilitates the proper tube insertion and drainage. Method: Twenty eight patients were required for tube drainage due to pleural fluid collections between January 1994 to February 1996. The author compared the results of drainage under applying each different method between blind chest tube insertion and image guided catheter insertion. Results: The conventional blind chest tube group comprised 14 patients; 6 empyema, 6 tuberculous effusion, and 2 parapneumonic effusion. The image guided catheter group of smaller french were composed of 14 patients; 2 empyema, 6 tuberculous effusion, 5 parapneumonic effusion, and 1 effusion of undetermined origin. Radiologic improvement with successful drainage was noticed in 79% with the blind chest tube group, whereas in 93% with the image guided catheter group. The complication with the latter method was unremarkable. Conclusion: Image guided catheter drainage was safe and highly successful in treating patients, not only with complicated effusion also with loculated empyema. Image guided catheter drainage offers an alternative in patients in whom closed drainage is required as the initial treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)403-409
Number of pages7
JournalTuberculosis and Respiratory Diseases
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1996


  • chest tube
  • empyema
  • image guided catheter
  • pleural effusion


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