As a sequel to a paper reporting good results obtained in 12 patients with empyema thoracis treated by thoracoscopic debridement and irrigation in our department, subsequent experience with a further 18 patients is reported. Drainage of pus and irrigation resulted in resolution of pyrexia with improvement in general condition in all patients. Overall, complete resolution was obtained by this technique alone in 60% (18/30). Of the 12 patients in whom complete resolution was not obtained, secondary surgical measures resulted in resolution of empyema in 8. Four patients died; all were elderly and severely debilitated, 3 with advanced malignancy. Their deaths were not related to the technique, which was well tolerated in all cases. Thoracoscopic debridement and irrigation used routinely as a first-line measure in empyema thoracis is a safe and relatively atraumatic procedure, does not exclude the use of any subsequent surgical measure, and provides valuable time to improve the condition of debilitated patients so that they may tolerate more aggressive surgical procedures.