Background: Empyema affects up to 65,000 patients annually in the United States. Recent consensus guidelines demonstrate ambiguity about optimal treatment. We examined current treatment practices and outcomes for inpatient treatment of empyema using a comprehensive, longitudinal data set that encompasses an entire state cohort of hospitalized patients. Methods: We queried the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project New York State Inpatient Database (2009 to 2014) for patients with primary empyema and subsequent readmissions. Patients were categorized into three groups by definitive treatment during their initial hospitalization: chest tube drainage, video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) decortication and drainage, or open decortication and drainage. Treatment outcomes, including success rates, readmission, reintervention, and mortality, were compared between groups. Results: The cohort included 4,095 patients undergoing intervention for primary empyema discharged during this period with chest tube, VATS, or open drainage and decortication. Most patients received definitive operative management (chest tube: 38.2%, VATS: 32.1%, open: 29.8%; p < 0.001). Patients had a high mortality rate during their initial hospitalization (chest tube: 15.4%, VATS: 4.7%, open: 6.0%; p < 0.001) and a substantial 30-day readmission rate for empyema (chest tube: 7.3%, VATS: 3.8%, open: 4.1%; p < 0.001), with reintervention at readmission significantly higher for chest tube (6.1%) vs surgical patients (VATS: 1.9%, open 2.1%; p < 0.001). Conclusions: This study characterizes recent treatment practices of patients with empyema. Higher readmission and reintervention rates were observed in patients managed with chest tubes, suggesting some of these patients may benefit from earlier definitive surgical intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1589-1596
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of Thoracic Surgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2018


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