Background: Randomized controlled trials have shown conflicting findings about the role of intrapleural fibrinolytic therapy for the treatment of empyema and complicated parapneumonic effusions in adult patients.
Objectives: To assess the clinical efficacy and summarize the current evidence of intrapleural fibrinolytic use in patients with empyema and complicated parapneumonic effusions in adult patients.
Methods: We performed a meta-analysis of all properly randomized trials comparing intrapleural fibrinolytic agents with placebo in adult patients with empyema and complicated parapneumonic effusions. Outcome of primary interest was the reduction of death and surgical intervention.
Results: We included five trials totaling 575 patients. The number of enrolled patients for each trial was small, except for the recent trial by Multicenter Intrapleural Sepsis Trial (MIST1) group. Compared with placebo, intrapleural fibrinolytic therapy was associated with a nonsignificant reduction in death and need for surgery (27.6% of the treatment group vs 32.8% of the control group; random-effects pooled risk ratio, 0.55; 95% confidence interval, 0.28 to 1.07; heterogeneity, p = 0.023). A separate analysis for outcomes on either death or need for surgery also showed nonsignificant results.
Conclusion: Our meta-analysis does not support the routine use of fibrinolytic therapy for all patients who require chest tube drainage for empyema or complicated parapneumonic effusions. However, there was significant heterogeneity of the treatment effects among the trials. Selected patients might benefit from the treatment.