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Pleural infection is a common condition encountered by respiratory physicians and thoracic surgeons alike. The European Respiratory Society (ERS) and European Society of Thoracic Surgeons (ESTS) established a multidisciplinary collaboration of clinicians with expertise in managing pleural infection with the aim of producing a comprehensive review of the scientific literature.Six areas of interest were identified including the epidemiology of pleural infection, the optimal antibiotic strategy, diagnostic parameters for chest tube drainage, the status of intrapleural therapies, the role of surgery and the current place of outcome prediction in management.The literature revealed that recently updated epidemiological data continue to show an overall upwards trend in incidence, but there is an urgent need for a more comprehensive characterisation of burden of pleural infection in specific populations such as immunocompromised hosts. There is a sparsity of regular analyses and documentation of microbiological patterns at a local level to inform geographical variation and ongoing research efforts are needed to improve antibiotic stewardship. The evidence remains in favour of a small-bore chest tube optimally placed under image guidance as an appropriate initial intervention for most cases of pleural infection. With a growing body of data suggesting delays to treatment are key contributors to poor outcomes, this suggests that earlier consideration of combination intrapleural enzyme therapy (IET) with concurrent surgical consultation should remain a priority. Since publication of the MIST-2 study, there has been considerable data supporting safety and efficacy of IET, but further studies are needed to optimise dosing using individualised biomarkers of treatment failure. Pending further prospective evaluation, the MIST-2 regimen remains the most evidence based. Several studies have externally validated the RAPID score, but it requires incorporating into prospective intervention studies prior to adopting into clinical practice.

Original publication




Journal article


European Respiratory Journal


European Respiratory Society (ERS)

Publication Date



2201062 - 2201062