Late complications of collapse therapy for pulmonary tuberculosis

Chest. 2001 Sep;120(3):847-51. doi: 10.1378/chest.120.3.847.


Study objectives: Collapse therapy for pulmonary tuberculosis involved placement of various materials to occupy space and keep the lung collapsed. Complications are encountered decades later.

Patients and methods: Between 1980 and 1997, we treated 31 patients with a history of pulmonary tuberculosis in whom collapse therapy had been used and who later developed complications related to their treatment. Pyogenic empyema was present in 24 patients, pleural calcifications with bronchopleural fistula was present in 3 patients, pleural calcification with nonresolvable pneumothorax was present in 1 patient, and migration of a foreign body with formation of subcutaneous mass occurred in 3 patients. All patients with empyema were treated with antibiotics and tube drainage of pus. In addition, Lucite balls were extracted in 4 patients, lung decortication was performed in 6 patients, thoracoplasty was performed in 2 patients, and fenestration was performed in 16 patients. Bronchopleural fistulas were closed with sutures and reinforced with intercostal muscle flap in three patients; in one patient with pleural calcification and nonresolvable pneumothorax, tube drainage was attempted. In three patients with subcutaneous mass due to paraffin migration, paraffin was extracted.

Results: Pulmonary decortication (six patients) and thoracoplasty (two patients) resulted in elimination of empyema. Extraction of Lucite balls resulted in lung expansion and elimination of empyema in three of four patients; draining sinus remains in one patient. Fenestration resulted in elimination of empyema in 12 of 16 patients, with 3 patients with residual draining sinuses and 1 patient with remaining empyema. All bronchopleural fistulas closed with intercostal muscle flap remained closed. Following extraction of paraffin blocks, infection developed in one patient. During the follow-up period, three patients died, all of unrelated causes.

Conclusions: Delayed complications of collapse therapy for tuberculosis should be treated without delay. Pressure on adjacent structures or their erosion presents danger and mandates immediate extraction; however, there is no need for routine removal of every residual plombe. Further increase in the number of multiple-drug resistant strains may force the return of collapse therapy.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Calcinosis / etiology
  • Calcinosis / surgery
  • Collapse Therapy / adverse effects*
  • Empyema, Pleural / etiology
  • Female
  • Foreign-Body Migration / surgery
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pleura / pathology
  • Pneumothorax / surgery
  • Pneumothorax, Artificial
  • Time Factors
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / surgery*