Pleural sepsis in children is common in most developing countries. It may present as total pyothorax, pyopneumothorax, or localised thoracic empyema. In most cases, it follows an attack of bronchopneumonia, but other debilitating conditions such as measles, malnutrition, and sickle cell anaemia form part of the clinical syndrome. In a review of 60 cases of pleural sepsis in children aged between 1.5 months and 16 years, there were 40 cases of pyothorax, 15 of pyopneumothorax, and five of localised empyema. Treatment with chemotherapy only was given in 22 cases of whom eight died. Twenty-three patients had chemotherapy and tube drainage of the pleural contents; five died. Fifteen children had excision of the pleural disease, and decortication of the lung; none died. In view of the chronicity of the pleural sepsis by the time the child is seen in the hospital, and also the low mortality and shorter period in hospital, thoracotomy and decortication is recommended as the treatment of choice.
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