Chylothorax is an uncommon form of pleural effusion that can be associated with traumatic and nontraumatic causes. Optimal management and outcome for patients with chylothorax remain unclear. This retrospective single-center study assessed the modes of management for chylothorax in 74 adult patients (> or =18 years old) and associated outcomes. The role of lymphangiographic imaging was also evaluated. Initial treatment approach was nonsurgical in 57 patients (77%) but a surgical procedure (pleurodesis, thoracic duct ligation, and/or surgical repair) was eventually performed in 44 patients (59%). The rate of resolution with initial treatment measures was significantly worse for patients with nontraumatic chylothorax compared with those with traumatic causes (27% versus 50%, P = 0.048). Even after additional therapeutic maneuvers including surgery, chylous effusion recurred more commonly in nontraumatic chylothorax when compared with the traumatic group (50% versus 13%, respectively, P < 0.001). Lymphatic imaging did not seem to materially influence management. Nonsurgical approaches may lead to resolution of the chylothorax in nearly one half of patients with traumatic chylothorax but in only a minority of those with nontraumatic chylothorax. The majority of patients with nontraumatic chylothorax will eventually require surgical maneuvers, but one third of such patients still fail to resolve their chylothorax.