Purpose of review: This article reviews the current literature concerning the role of somatostatin and its synthetic analogue, octreotide, in the treatment of chylothorax.
Recent findings: Management of chylothorax includes evacuation of the pleural cavity through a chest tube to alleviate dyspnoea, and dietary fat restriction aimed at reducing lymph flow. When these measures fail to control lymph flow, surgical interventions are employed to achieve definite closure of the thoracic duct leak. Several case reports and series have shown that octreotide is safe and probably effective in both children and adults with chylothorax of different origins. The property of somatostatin and octreotide to induce leak closure is attributed to a decelerating effect on lymph flow, although their exact mechanism of action is not well defined. In successful cases, a substantial reduction of lymph drainage through the chest tube is evident within the first few days of commencing the drug, and treatment lasts for 1-2 weeks. Treatment failure has been also reported, however.
Summary: Accumulating evidence suggests that octreotide is a putative novel therapeutic intervention for chylothorax. It is imperative that randomized controlled studies are conducted in order to fully elucidate the efficacy and safety of this treatment.