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Pleural infection is a common and serious clinical problem that because of its high morbidity and mortality imposes a significant burden on clinicians, healthcare resources and patients of all ages. Defining the optimal management strategy for pleural infection remains a cause for research and debate. This review considers the areas of interest including bacteriology and antibiotic selection, intrapleural fibrinolytics and the role of surgery. Pleural infection is increasing in the adult and paediatric populations without clear explanation and with clinical and financial consequences. The bacteriology of pleural infection is recognized as being unique from parenchymal lung infection with implications for its treatment. Although established in paediatric management, intrapleural fibrinolytics remain of uncertain benefit in adults, though the novel combination of tissue plasminogen activator and deoxyribonuclease used in the MIST2 study offers cause for optimism. Surgery remains a key intervention in pleural infection, but its precise role is unclear with no robust evidence to show when and in whom it should be optimally utilized. The high mortality in adults from pleural infection despite advances in clinical knowledge, diagnostics and therapeutics highlights the need for ongoing research. Future studies are required to focus on improving the clinical outcomes, with the identification of those patients at greatest risk of poor outcomes at presentation and most likely to benefit from more radical treatment a priority to allow the delivery of individualized care.

Citation

John P Corcoran, Robert Hallifax, Najib M Rahman. New therapeutic approaches to pleural infection. Current opinion in infectious diseases. 2013 Apr;26(2):196-202

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PMID: 23286936

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