Study objectives: The objectives of the study were to present our institutional experience of idiopathic chylothorax in children and to propose therapeutic strategies.
Design: This was a retrospective, single-center study.
Patients: Patients were 6 children (4 boys, 2 girls) presenting with an idiopathic chylothorax diagnosed from the presence of a chylous pleural effusion with triglycerides greater than 1.2 mmol/L and a cellularity greater than 1000 cells/mL with a predominance of lymphocytes.
Results: Median age of onset was 7 years (range, 2-14 years). Initial symptoms included cough (n = 4), tachypnea (n = 4), asthenia (n = 5), abdominal pain (n = 2), and bronchitis (n = 1). Chest radiography showed 2 left, 2 right, and 2 bilateral pleural effusions. Serum biology assessment was normal in all children. Respiratory function assessment at diagnosis revealed a decrease in functional residual capacity in 3 children and a decrease in lung diffusing capacity in 2 children. Initially, all patients received a medium-chain triglyceride diet for 29 months (range, 10-50 months). Total parenteral nutrition was required for 4 patients (for 1-4 months), and somatostatin was tried in one child. Two children required pleuroperitoneal shunting, bilateral in one case. During the follow-up (median duration, 6 years; range, 2-16 years), chylothorax stabilized in all patients and 5 patients were able to return to a normal diet.
Conclusion: A medium-chain triglyceride diet associated in some cases with total parenteral nutrition may stabilize idiopathic chylothorax in children. In cases where conservative treatment has failed, pleuroperitoneal shunting may be useful.