Background and purpose: The usefulness of plain film chest radiography (CXR) in evaluation for thoracic complications after laparoscopic urologic procedures is uncertain. Our objectives were to examine the association between radiographic findings and clinical manifestations of thoracic complications after laparoscopic urologic procedures and to determine the prevalence of postoperative CXR at our institution.
Patients and methods: We performed a retrospective review of 195 patients who underwent laparoscopic renal/adrenal urologic procedures at our institution from 1998 to 2005. Chi-square analysis was used to compare the rate of radiographic abnormalities and thoracic complications between different types of laparoscopic procedures.
Results: A total of 96 patients (96/195, 49%) had postoperative CXR, and abnormalities were noted in 75 (75/96, 78%). The abnormalities seen on CXR included atelectasis, pleural effusions, pneumomediastinum, pneumothorax, subcutaneous emphysema, and pneumonia. Retroperitoneal laparoscopy had significantly more incidental subclinical pneumothoraces (P = 0.000469) and subcutaneous emphysema (P = 0.043) identified by CXR than either transperitoneal, hand-assisted, or cryosurgery. Overall, eight patients (8.3%) had clinical manifestations of a thoracic complication but only five (5.2%) were clinically significant complications detected by CXR. Thus, while 75 CXRs were noted as abnormal, 70 (93%) documented incidental findings that did not affect patient care.
Conclusions: Thoracic complications after laparoscopic urologic procedures are uncommon events. Although the majority of CXRs after such procedures do contain abnormalities, most abnormalities are subclinical and do not affect postoperative management. Patients with significant radiographic findings demonstrated significant clinical symptoms. Thus, routine CXR after urologic laparoscopy does not appear to be necessary to identify thoracic complications and may be overused.