Background: Massive hemoptysis is a life threatening condition. Several therapeutic strategies have been applied in the clinical setting, with variable results. We reviewed our recent experience on this subject.
Material and methods: In a 5-year period, fifty-four patients (41 males, mean age 57.9 years) were treated for massive hemoptysis in our unit. The underlying pathology included bronchiectasis (n=31), active tuberculosis (n=9), pneumoconiosis (n=3), lung cancer (n=2) and pulmonary angiodysplasia (n=1). These patients often present with continuous bleeding with large volume of hemoptysis, or with recurrent episodes of bleeding. Bronchoscopic assessment and interventions were performed upon admission in all patients. Surgery was considered if the patient had acceptable pulmonary reserve and a bleeding source was clearly identified. If the patient was not considered fit for surgery, bronchial artery embolization was attempted.
Results: Hemoptysis ceased with conservative management in 7 patients (13%) only. Twenty seven (50%) patients received surgical resection. The procedures included lobectomy (n=21), bilobectomy (n=4) and pneumonectomy (n=2). The in-hospital mortality after surgery was 15%. Postoperative morbidity occurred in 8 patients, including prolonged ventilatory support, bronchopleural fistulae, empyema and myocardial infarction. Twenty-one patients not suitable for surgery were treated with bronchial artery embolisation, which was successful in 17 patients without any complications.
Conclusion: The clinical outcome for massive hemoptysis reflects the generalized nature of a destructive disease process involving both lungs and a limited respiratory reserve. Surgery is associated with high risk of morbidity and mortality, and should be performed only in selected patients. Meanwhile, aggressive conservative therapy including bronchial artery embolization should be pursued.