Nontuberculous mycobacteria infections of the pleura: A systematic review

Keren Bachar*, Tiberiu Shulimzon, Michael J. Segel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Nontuberculous mycobacterial (NTM) pleuritis is an uncommon manifestation of NTM infection. Case reports and small case series have shown a variable clinical course and high mortality rates. Objective: To describe patients' characteristics, clinical presentation and outcomes of NTM pleural infections. Methods: A systematic review of cases of NTM pleural infections published in PubMed-indexed journals from 1980 to 2021. Results: A total of 206 cases of NTM pleural infections were found and analyzed. Fifty-eight percent of cases were males. The mean age was 57.5 yrs (range 9–87 yrs). Forty-three percent of patients were immunosuppressed, and 43% had a chronic lung disease; thirty-two percent had neither risk factor. In addition to the pleural infection, 67% of cases had a concurrent pulmonary NTM infection, and in 18 cases there was another extrapulmonary site of NTM infection. In 29% of cases the pleural infection was the sole manifestation of NTM disease. The most common isolated mycobacterium was Mycobacterium avium complex (65%). Fifty-three percent and 26% of patients required pleural effusion drainage and a surgical intervention, respectively, to treat the infection, in addition to anti-NTM chemotherapy. Forty percent of patients developed pneumothorax, 16% suffered from empyema, and 16.5% had broncho-pleural fistula. The reported mortality rate was 24%. Conclusion: NTM pleural infections may arise in immunocompetent and immunosuppressed patients, with or without chronic lung disease or concurrent NTM pulmonary infection. These infections carry a poor prognosis and a high risk of complications requiring surgical interventions in addition to anti-NTM chemotherapy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107036
JournalRespiratory Medicine
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Nontuberculous mycobacteria
  • Pleural infection
  • Systematic review


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