Paediatric Respiratory Society Empyema Study Group


Background: The role of intrapleural fibrinolytic agents in the treatment of childhood empyema has not been established. A randomised double blind placebo controlled trial of intrapleural urokinase was performed in children with parapneumonic empyema. Methods: Sixty children (median age 3.3 years) were recruited from 10 centres and randomised to receive either intrapleural urokinase 40 000 units in 40 ml or saline 12 hourly for 3 days. The primary outcome measure was length of hospital stay after entry to the trial. Results: Treatment with urokinase resulted in a significantly shorter hospital stay (7.4 v 9.5 days; ratio of geometric means 1.28, CI 1.16 to 1.41 p=0.027). A post hoc analysis showed that the use of small percutaneous drains was also associated with shorter hospital stay. Children treated with a combina-tion of urokinase and a small drain had the shortest stay (6.0 days, CI 4.6 to 7.8). Conclusion: Intrapleural urokinase is effective in treating empyema in children and significantly short-ens hospital stay. Empyema in children usually follows an acute bacterialpneumonia and is associated with significant clinicalmorbidity. It has become more common in England in recent years1 but there is great heterogeneity in management reflecting the absence of good evidence on which to bas

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