Objectives: To evaluate etiology, bacteriology, stage of disease, treatment, and outcome of HIV-infected patients with thoracic empyema (TE) over a 9-year period at a hospital teaching center.
Design: We have retrospectively reviewed the charts of all HIV-infected patients with a hospital discharge diagnosis of empyema between January 1985 and November 1993.
Patients: Twenty-three patients were identified (22 male and 1 female). The average patient age was 28.7±5.3 years. All the patients were injection-drug users, and 10 (43%) fulfilled criteria for an AIDS diagnosis. In 15 cases (65%), the empyema was the first cause of medical consultation, which then led to an HIV infection diagnosis in 11 of them (48%).
Measurements: In each case, symptoms, chest studies, culture results, procedure timing, length of hospitalization, and outcome were reviewed.
Results: Twenty-one patients (91%) had developed an empyema secondary to community-acquired pneumonia. The cultures of pleural fluid were positive in 19 cases (83%). Anaerobes were isolated from 6 patients and aerobes from 13. A single bacteria was isolated from 10 (52%), and multiple organisms (average 2.66 per case) grew in the remaining 9 positive cultures. The most common organism culture growths were Staphylococcus aureus (23%) and Gram-negative bacilli (36%). Length of hospitalization averaged 25.6 days (±15). Intercostal tube drainage was necessary in 18 patients and none required surgery. Patients with AIDS diagnosis needed a longer period of hospitalization, and the presence of bacteremia and bronchopleural fistula was more frequent. However, this did not influence a patient's final outcome. A follow-up was available in 18 cases, with 4 deaths recorded (average survival, 35 months; range, 4 to 84 months).
Conclusions: In our series, TE associated with HIV infection was often the primary cause leading to hospital admission and later HIV diagnosis. IV drug abuse was the predominant factor for HIV infection and was also related to clinical presentation and microbiological findings. The best approach to treatment is—as with other patient groups—a prompt drainage and appropriate antibiotic treatment, since a favorable outcome is expected.