BACKGROUND--Intrapleural administration of streptokinase has been shown in a few small series to be effective treatment for complicated parapneumonic effusions and pleural empyemas, but techniques of instillation of streptokinase differ. The role of streptokinase in promoting drainage was investigated prospectively in a larger series of patients with complicated parapneumonic effusions and pleural empyemas. METHODS--Twenty consecutive patients with parapneumonic effusions, 15 with complicated parapneumonic effusions and five with pleural empyemas, drawn from 160 patients presenting with pleural effusions were studied. The age of the patients ranged from 15 to 92 years. Initial thoracocentesis showed mean (SD) values of pH 7.1 (0.15), glucose 45.9 (17.5) mg/dl, white blood cell count 12,000 (6627)/mm3. Streptokinase was administered intrapleurally in a single daily dose of 250,000 units in 100 ml normal saline via the chest tube once the drainage was < 100 ml/24 hours. Patients were treated for 3-10 (mean 6) days. RESULTS--Following administration of streptokinase a clinical and radiological improvement was noted in all but one patient who died on the fourth day of hospitalisation due to widespread adenocarcinoma. Another patient with clinical but minimal radiological improvement underwent thoracotomy, but a clear pleural space with only fibrotic changes was found. The mean (SD) volume of fluid drained 24 hours before streptokinase was 42.5 (39) ml, which increased in the first 24 hours after streptokinase to 334 (130) ml. Radiological evaluation showed an excellent improvement in 14 of the 20 patients, a moderate improvement in three, and minimal improvement in the remaining three patients. One patient developed a high fever as an adverse reaction to streptokinase. All 19 patients who completed the treatment were well at follow up 6-30 months (mean 15 months) later. CONCLUSIONS--Intrapleural instillation of streptokinase is an effective and safe mode of treatment for complicated parapneumonic effusions and pleural empyemas and alleviates the need for thoracotomy.
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