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Laboratory and Animal Investigations |

Antibiotic Levels in Empyemic Pleural Fluid*

Lisete R. Teixeira, MD; Scott A. Sasse, MD, FCCP; Maria Antonia Villarino, MD; Tan Nguyen, MD; Maury E. Mulligan, MD; Richard W. Light, MD, FCCP
Author and Funding Information

*From the Pulmonary Disease Program (Drs. Teixeira, Villarino, and Light), Saint Thomas Hospital and Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN; and the Department of Veterans Affairs (Drs. Sasse, Nguyen, and Mulligan), Long Beach, CA.

Correspondence to: Richard W. Light MD, FCCP, Pulmonary Disease Program, Saint Thomas Hospital, PO Box 380, 4220 Harding Rd, Nashville, TN 37202; e-mail: rlight98@yahoo.com



Chest. 2000;117(6):1734-1739. doi:10.1378/chest.117.6.1734
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Published online

Objective: To determine the degree to which bioactive penicillin, metronidazole, ceftriaxone, clindamycin, vancomycin, and gentamicin penetrate into empyemic pleural fluid using our new rabbit model of empyema.

Methods: An empyema was created via the intrapleural injection of 108Pasteurella multocida bacteria into the pleural space of New Zealand white rabbits. After an empyema was verified by thoracentesis and pleural fluid analysis, penicillin, 24,000 U/kg; metronidazole, 37 mg/kg; ceftriaxone, 30 mg/kg; clindamycin, 9 mg/kg; vancomycin, 15 mg/kg; or gentamicin, 1 mg/kg, were administered IV. Antibiotic levels in samples of pleural fluid and serum, collected serially for up to 480 min, were then determined using a bioassay.

Results: The degree to which the different antibiotics penetrated into the infected pleural space was highly variable. Penicillin penetrated most easily, followed by metronidazole, ceftriaxone, clindamycin, vancomycin, and gentamicin. Of the antibiotics tested, penicillin and metronidazole equilibrated the most rapidly with the infected pleural fluid. Penicillin levels remained elevated in pleural fluid even after serum levels had decreased.

Conclusions: Using this rabbit model of empyema, there was marked variation in the penetration of antibiotics into the empyemic fluid. Although there are species differences between rabbit and human pleura, the variance in degree of penetration of antibiotics into the pleural space should be considered when antibiotics are selected for the treatment of patients with empyema.

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