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BACKGROUND:Pleural infection remains an important cause of mortality. This study aimed to investigate worldwide patterns of pre-existing comorbidities and clinical outcomes of patients with pleural infection. METHODS:Studies reporting on adults with pleural infection between 2000 and 2017 were identified from a search of Embase and MEDLINE. Articles reporting exclusively on tuberculous, fungal or post-pneumonectomy infection were excluded. Two reviewers assessed 20 980 records for eligibility. RESULTS:211 studies met the inclusion criteria. 134 articles (227 898 patients, mean age 52.8 years) reported comorbidity and/or outcome data. The majority of studies were retrospective observational cohorts (n=104, 78%) and the most common region of reporting was East Asia (n=33, 24%) followed by North America (n=27, 20%). 85 articles (50 756 patients) reported comorbidity. The median (interquartile range (IQR)) percentage prevalence of any comorbidity was 72% (58-83%), with respiratory illness (20%, 16-32%) and cardiac illness (19%, 15-27%) most commonly reported. 125 papers (192 298 patients) reported outcome data. The median (IQR) length of stay was 19 days (13-27 days) and median in-hospital or 30-day mortality was 4% (IQR 1-11%). In regions with high-income economies (n=100, 74%) patients were older (mean 56.5 versus 42.5 years, p<0.0001), but there were no significant differences in prevalence of pre-existing comorbidity nor in length of hospital stay or mortality. CONCLUSION:Patients with pleural infection have high levels of comorbidity and long hospital stays. Most reported data are from high-income economy settings. Data from lower-income regions is needed to better understand regional trends and enable optimal resource provision going forward.

Original publication




Journal article


The European respiratory journal

Publication Date





Oxford Centre for Respiratory Medicine, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, Oxford, UK.