Suction versus water seal after thoracoscopy for primary spontaneous pneumothorax: prospective randomized study

Ann Thorac Surg. 2003 May;75(5):1593-6. doi: 10.1016/s0003-4975(02)04894-4.


Background: The objectives of the study were to review our experience of video-assisted thoracoscopic apical pleurectomy and to evaluate whether suction or water seal is superior in the postoperative treatment of primary spontaneous pneumothorax.

Methods: One hundred consecutive patients undergoing thoracoscopy for primary spontaneous pneumothorax from January 1995 to December 1999 were prospectively randomly assigned after surgery to receive suction or water seal to their chest tubes after a brief period of suction.

Results: There were 50 patients in each group. The two groups were evenly matched for age and operation performed. The method of management was stapling of an identified bleb or apex of the upper lobe and apical pleurectomy. Postoperative prolonged air leak longer than 5 days occurred in 8 patients (8%), 7 in the suction group and 1 in the water seal group (p = 0.03). The mean duration of chest tube days was lower in the water seal group (2.7 days) than in the suction group (3.8 days; p = 0.004). The mean hospital stay in the water seal group was 3.7 days and in the suction group it was 4.8 days (p = 0.004). Mean follow-up was 48 months (range, 30 to 60) for all patients. Pneumothorax recurred in 2 patients (2%). The recurrences occurred in the first year.

Conclusions: Video-assisted thoracoscopic apical pleurectomy is effective and safe for treating primary spontaneous pneumothorax. Placing chest tubes on water seal after a brief period of suction shortens the duration of chest tube placement and hence the hospital stay.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Chest Tubes*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay
  • Lung / surgery
  • Male
  • Pleura / surgery
  • Pneumothorax / surgery*
  • Postoperative Care*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Suction
  • Surgical Stapling
  • Thoracic Surgery, Video-Assisted*