Background: Persistent air leak (PAL; defined as air leak > 5 days) after major pulmonary resection is prevalent and associated with significant morbidity. This study examines an incompletely characterized treatment for the management of PAL, chemical pleurodesis.
Methods: A retrospective case-control study examining all isolated lobectomies and bilobectomies by thoracotomy was performed. The PALs (1997 to 2006) and controls (2002 to 2006) were identified from a prospective database. Incidence, risk factors, management, and outcome were defined.
Results: Over 9 years, 78 PALs were identified in 1,393 patients (5.6%). Controls consisted of 700 consecutive patients. Propensity score analysis matching case and controls showed no predictive risk factors for air leak using a logistic regression model. Univariate analysis demonstrated that female gender, smoking history, and forced vital capacity were predictive risk factors. Treatment of PAL consisted of observation (n = 33, 42.3%), pleurodesis (n = 41, 52.6%), Heimlich valve (n = 3, 3.8%), and reoperation (n = 1, 1.3%). Seventy-three patients (93.6%) required no further intervention. One patient required a muscle flap, one readmission for pneumothorax, and one empyema resulting in death. Sclerosis was successful in 40 of 41 patients (97.6%). Mean time to treatment was 8.4 +/- 3.6 days, mean duration of air leak was 10.7 +/- 4.5, and mean duration of air leak postsclerotherapy was 2.8 +/- 2.2 days. Postoperative pneumonia occurred with increased frequency in PAL patients (6 of 45 [13.3%] vs 34 of 700 [4.9%], p = 0.014). PAL was associated with increased length of stay (14.2 vs 7.1 days, p < 0.001) and time with chest tube (11.5 vs 3.4 days, p < 0.001).
Conclusions: Air leaks remain an important cause of morbidity. Pleurodesis is an effective option in management of PAL after major pulmonary resection.
2010 The Society of Thoracic Surgeons. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.