Empyema thoracis in children: Clinical presentation, management and complications

Ali Faisal Saleem, Abdul Sattar Shaikh, Reema Sajjad Khan, Fazal Khan, Ahmad Vaqas Faruque, Muhammad Arif Mateen Khan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To determine the etiology, clinical manifestation, management (medical and surgical) and complications of children with empyema thoracis in a tertiary care hospital from Karachi, Pakistan. Study Design: Descriptive, analytical study. Place and Duration of Study: Department of Surgery, The Aga Khan University Hospital, Karachi, from January 1996 to December 2010. Methodology: Medical records of admitted children aged > a month to 15 years with discharge diagnosis of empyema thoracis and data was collected on demographic features, clinical manifestation, management and complications. Children managed medically were compared with those managed surgically by using interquartile range and median comparison. Mann-Whitney U test was used to compare age in months, weight (kg) and length of stay in days and presenting complaint, duration of illness; chi-square test was used to compare thrombocytosis in between groups and p-value was calculated. Results: Among the 112 patients, 59 (53%) were younger than 5 years of age. Males (n=83, 74%) were predominant. Fifty (45%) children were admitted in winter. Thirty (27%) children found unvaccinated and one fourth (n=27; 24%) were severely malnourished. Fever, cough, and dyspnea were the major presenting symptoms. Sixty-six (59%) were on some antibiotics prior to admission. Staphylococcus aureus (n=13) and Streptococcus pneumoniae (n=5) were the commonest organism isolated from blood and pleural fluid cultures. Majority of the children required some surgical intervention (n=86). Surgically managed children were younger (p=0.01); had less weight (p=0.01) and prolonged fever (p=0.02); and stayed longer in hospital (p < 0.001) as compared to medically managed children. Requiring readmission (n=8), subcutaneous emphysema (n=5) and recollection of pus (n=5) were the major complications. Conclusion: Staphylococcus aureus was the major organism associated with paediatric empyema thoracis. Early identification and empiric antibiotic as per local data is essential to prevent short and long-term complications. Younger, lower weight children with prolonged fever required surgical management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)573-576
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of the College of Physicians and Surgeons--Pakistan : JCPSP
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2014


  • Decortication
  • Empyema in children
  • Tube thoracostomy


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