Are There Early Clinical Factors to Decide Early Surgical Management for Secondary Chylothorax? A Review of 32 Cases


Background: Chylothorax may be primary (spontaneous) or secondary and more often arising as a postoperative complication of thoracic surgery. It occurs when the thoracic duct or its lymphatic tributaries become blocked or perforated or divided resulting in a chylous pleural effusion. Loss of chyle leads to nutritional deficiencies, dehydration, ionic perturbation and lymphocytes leaks thus increasing the vulnerability for infections and respiratory dysfunction. It is a life-threatening complication increasing the postoperative hospital stay. Management of chylothorax is firstly medical which leads to the cessation of leaks in most of the cases. Surgical treatment by thoracic duct ligation is sometimes necessary after failure of medical treatment. The appropriate time for surgical treatment is a subject of controversy. Methods: Reviewing a series of patients treated between 2000 to 2010 in a single center with the same protocol management, the aim of the study was to identify early clinical variables allowing early surgical treatment in postoperative chylothorax. Results: Thirty-two patients were identified in the study period. There were 21 males (65.6%) and 11 females (34.4%) with a mean age of 55.7 years (range from 9 to 79 years) (Table 1). Twenty-two patients (68.75%) had chylothorax after a surgical intervention, seven patients (21.8%) had chylothorax due to medical causes and three patients (9.3%) after chest trauma. Thirty-eight percent of patients treated conservatively were after lung cancer resection and 35% of patients treated surgically where after esophageal resection. Chylothorax was stopped in 33% of patients after lymphangiography. Cumulative leak per day was 1007 ml/day for operated patients and 397 ml/day for patient treated conservatively. Esophageal resection surgery and the amount of fluid leak were the two factors founded to be associated for the decision of an earlier surgical treatment. Conclusion: Chylothorax arising after esophageal resection with a flow rate of leak of more than 500 ml/day should be proposed to an earlier surgical treatment. Lymphangiography remains a key stone assessment with a double aim diagnostic and therapeutic in chyle leakage.

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A. Ramzi, T. Matthieu, J. Jacques, D. Frédéric and V. Jean-Francois, "Are There Early Clinical Factors to Decide Early Surgical Management for Secondary Chylothorax? A Review of 32 Cases," Open Journal of Thoracic Surgery, Vol. 3 No. 2, 2013, pp. 30-36. doi: 10.4236/ojts.2013.32007.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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