Study objectives: The objective of this study was to determine the impact of the timing of chest tube insertion on outcome for the treatment of empyema, using a new animal model of empyema.
Design: A prospective, controlled randomized, blinded design was used.
Setting: The study was conducted in an animal research laboratory.
Patients or participants: Sixty-six 2- to 3-kg rabbits were used in this study.
Interventions: After induction of empyema, the rabbits were divided into four groups. Fourteen rabbits had chest tubes placed at 24 h after empyema induction. Seventeen rabbits had chest tubes placed at 48 h and 14 rabbits had chest tubes placed at 72 h after empyema induction. Twenty-one rabbits served as control rabbits and had no chest tubes placed.
Measurements and results: Ten days after induction of empyema, the rabbits were killed. The pleural spaces of each rabbit were examined and a gross score, pleural peel score, and a microscopic score were calculated for each rabbit. The median gross score, mean pleural peel score, and median microscopic scores were significantly higher in the rabbits that underwent late chest tube placement (72 h) relative to those that underwent early chest tube placement (24 or 48 h).
Conclusions: This study supports previous expert opinion statements and conclusions from retrospective analyses that early chest tube placement (relative to delayed chest tube placement) is beneficial for the treatment of empyema.