Giant bullous lung disease: evaluation, selection, techniques, and outcomes

Chest Surg Clin N Am. 2003 Nov;13(4):631-49. doi: 10.1016/s1052-3359(03)00095-4.


Patient selection remains one of the most important aspects of successful surgery for bullous disease. Operation is indicated for patients who have incapacitating dyspnea with large bullae that fill more than 30% of the hemithorax and result in the compression of healthy adjacent lung tissue. Operation is also indicated for patients who have complications related to bullous disease such as infection or pneumothorax. Patients who have bullous disease in the presence of diffuse lung disease (emphysematous or nonemphysematous) should be evaluated on an individual basis and surgery should be performed on patients in whom even a small increase in pulmonary function might be of major benefit. Smoking cessation and outpatient pulmonary rehabilitation are required of all patients preoperatively. Patients should undergo PFTs including lung volumes by whole body plethysmography, spirometry, diffusion capacity, and arterial blood gas. CT remains the most important preoperative evaluation because it is useful assessing the extent of bullous disease and the quality of the surrounding lung tissue. The authors favor a minimally invasive technique through VATS whenever possible because it might allow for a quicker recovery and might be associated with less pain than is seen following thoracotomy. Modified Monaldi-type drainage procedures are also effective, especially in high-risk patients who cannot tolerate excisional procedures. Special care must be taken to avoid sacrifice of any potentially functional lung tissue. Lobectomies should be avoided whenever possible. The best results are seen in limited resections of large bullae that spare all surrounding functional pulmonary parenchyma. Postoperative complications are minimized through aggressive tracheobronchial toilet and vigorous chest physiotherapy. Adequate pain control in maintained throughout the postoperative period, initially by way of epidural infusion of morphine or fentanyl and later through oral opioids. Early ambulation and pulmonary rehabilitation also help minimize complications.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Drainage / methods
  • Humans
  • Postoperative Care
  • Preoperative Care
  • Pulmonary Emphysema / classification
  • Pulmonary Emphysema / physiopathology*
  • Pulmonary Emphysema / surgery*
  • Thoracic Surgery, Video-Assisted