Background: Bronchopleural fistula is a serious complication after pneumonectomy. The aim of this retrospective study was to investigate the efficacy of bronchial stump reinforcement with a pedicled flap of whole pericardium.
Methods: The bronchial stump of 93 consecutive patients who underwent pneumonectomy between July 1988 and March 2003 was covered with a pedicled pericardial flap. Pneumonectomy was performed for primary lung cancer in 89.2% of patients. The study patients received concomitant extensive mediastinal lymphadenectomy, resection of adjacent structures (aorta, vena cava, thoracic wall), and neoadjuvant or planned adjuvant chemotherapy or radiotherapy, or both. Operative and perioperative complications were recorded, and patients were followed up for a mean of 15 +/- 21.2 months (range, 9 to 126).
Results: Perioperative mortality was 4.3% (n = 4; pulmonary embolism, sepsis, cardiac arrest, and sudden death in 1 patient each). Perioperative complications occurred in 2 patients: renal failure and hemiplegia in 1 patient and cardiac tamponade in 1 patient. The latter complication, caused by tight reconstruction of the pericardium, was directly related to the applied method and required reoperation. No evidence of postpneumonectomy bronchopleural fistula was observed perioperatively and during the whole follow-up. One-year and 2-year survival was 65.7% and 44.8%, respectively.
Conclusions: Bronchial stump reinforcement with a pericardial flap is a highly effective method for preventing postpneumonectomy bronchopleural fistula in selected patients.