[Prenatal diagnosis of chylothorax]

Arch Pediatr. 1999 Aug;6(8):867-71. doi: 10.1016/s0929-693x(00)88482-1.
[Article in French]


Chylothorax is defined as the presence of lymph in the pleural space. Congenital chylothorax is one of the most frequent causes of fetal pleural effusion. It may be primary or secondary. Careful assessment of the etiology and of possible associated anomalies is required. Main complications are pulmonary hypoplasia, hydrops fetalis and the risk of premature delivery. Management is still a mater of controversy, the diagnosis of fetal pulmonary hypoplasia being difficult in utero. Factors such as gestational age, evolution of pleural effusion on two weeks, signs of seriousness (hydrops fetalis), and pulmonary expansion after pleural puncture may help the physician to choose between abstention, pleural tapping or long-term in utero drainage. Post natal treatment consists of pleural drainage and assisted ventilation in cases of respiratory distress, correction of metabolic and immune disorders and exclusive parenteral nutrition. Once chylothorax is resolved, formula feeding without long-chain triglycerides is allowed. If pleural effusion persists despite a well conducted treatment, albumin infusion and diuretics may be used before considering surgical treatment.

Publication types

  • English Abstract
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chylothorax / diagnosis*
  • Chylothorax / embryology*
  • Chylothorax / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Diagnosis*