Imaging of parapneumonic pleural effusions and empyema in children

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Pleural empyema in children is increasing in incidence. The British Thoracic Society published guidelines for the management of empyema in children in 2005, including recommendations regarding imaging. In this article we review the pathophysiology, treatment options and imaging findings of complicated parapneumonic effusion and empyema in children. We also review the published evidence that supports the roles imaging is called upon to play in the management of these conditions. Imaging in the form of chest radiography and US is recommended to identify and guide drainage of complicated parapneumonic effusions. CT is recommended in special circumstances only. Imaging techniques have not been shown to accurately stage empyema, predict outcome or guide decisions regarding surgical versus medical management.

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