Chylous effusions have an identical appearance to milk and occur when the thoracic duct is blocked. Since chyle represents direct absorption of fat from the small intestine lacteals, it is rich in fat, calories, vitamins and immunoglobulins. Drainage of this milk-like fluid from any cavity (chest or abdomen) results in rapid weight loss and profound cachexia. The recognition of this milk-like fluid as chyle is urgent for the implementation of the correct treatment. In adults, lymphoma is one of the commonest malignancies to cause blockages in the thoracic duct. Once the diagnosis is made, conservative treatment with strict dietary adjustment often fails to prevent weight loss or resolve the underlying cause. Since the condition is uncommon, no guidelines exist. Many surgeons recommend early surgical intervention before the patient becomes too weak. Surgery may also fail. We report the case of a 62-year-old man with chylous effusions and a weight loss of 30 kg. The nature of the effusion was unrecognized for the first 16 weeks. Upon diagnosis, dietary adjustment was made and a lymphangiogram organized with a view to surgery. Literature searches revealed two cases in which somatostatin was used after surgical procedures failed. We therefore used octreotide (a synthetic analogue of somatostatin). We report complete resolution of the condition within 72 h leading to the resumption of a normal diet and discharge within 2 weeks.
Copyright 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.