Aim: Prolonged air leaks remain one of the most important complication after pulmonary resection. The aim of this study was to test a new fast-track chest tube removal protocol using a new drainage system, which digitally records postoperative air leaks, compared to the traditional one, with subjective visual air leak assessment.
Methods: Patients with moderate COPD undergoing lobectomy for primary lung cancer at the Department of Thoracic Surgery of the University of Torino were randomised in two groups with different chest drainage systems and different removal protocols: in Group A the drainage was removed after digitally recordered measurement of air leaks; in Group B the tube was removed according to the air leaks visualization by bubbling in the water column. The following variables were evaluated: first and second drainage removal day; overall hospital length of stay; overall hospitalization costs.
Results: First and second drainages were removed sooner in those patients with the digital drainage system. An earlier drainage removal is associated with significative reduction in hospital length of stay and overall hospitalization costs.
Conclusion: The digital and continuous air leak measurement reduces the hospital length of stay by a more accurate and reproductive air leaks measurement. Further studies are mandatory to corroborate our preliminary results.