Submucosal injection of the silver-human albumin complex for the treatment of bronchopleural fistula

Eur J Cardiothorac Surg. 2010 Jan;37(1):40-3. doi: 10.1016/j.ejcts.2009.07.006. Epub 2009 Aug 21.


Objective: Postoperative bronchopleural fistula (BPF) is a serious complication and a therapeutic challenge in thoracic surgery. The purpose of this study is to assess the efficacy of the use of the silver-human albumin (SHA) complex injected in the bronchial submucosa for the treatment of BPF.

Methods: From January 2005 to March 2008, we treated 11 patients with BPF (seven post-pneumonectomy and four post-lobectomy) by endoscopic injection of the SHA complex into the bronchial submucosa. In all patients a chest drain was positioned and employed for antibiotic pleural irrigation. Simultaneously, the endoscopic treatment including repeated injection of the SHA complex was started. In 10 patients the diameter of the fistulas was equal to or smaller than 5mm (range: 3-5mm) and in one it was larger than 5mm (8mm).

Results: There was no morbidity or mortality related to the procedure. Permanent closure of the fistula was achieved in all 10 patients with a BPF of 3-5mm. In four of these patients (post-lobectomy fistula), the good general condition allowed early discharge with the Heimlich valve before the completion of treatment. Two other patients with a fistula smaller than 5mm presented persisting empyema and compromised general conditions after closure of the post-pneumonectomy BPF. These patients underwent fast-track treatment of the empyema achieving definitive cure. In the patient with a BPF larger than 5mm, the conservative treatment was not sufficient and an omental flap transposition was necessary.

Conclusions: The SHA complex submucosal injection is easy, safe and inexpensive. It can be considered a valid therapeutic option in selected patients presenting an early fistula with a size equal to or smaller than 5mm. Early diagnosis, simultaneous insertion of a chest drain and achievement of a sterile pleural cavity are fundamental conditions for the final success of the procedure.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Bronchial Fistula / diagnosis
  • Bronchial Fistula / drug therapy*
  • Bronchial Fistula / etiology
  • Bronchial Fistula / pathology
  • Bronchoscopy
  • Early Diagnosis
  • Female
  • Fistula / drug therapy*
  • Fistula / etiology
  • Humans
  • Injections
  • Injections, Intralesional
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pleural Diseases / diagnosis
  • Pleural Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Pleural Diseases / etiology
  • Pleural Diseases / pathology
  • Pneumonectomy / adverse effects
  • Respiratory Mucosa
  • Serum Albumin / administration & dosage*
  • Serum Albumin / therapeutic use
  • Silver Nitrate / administration & dosage*
  • Silver Nitrate / therapeutic use
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Serum Albumin
  • Silver Nitrate