Role of blebs and bullae detected by high-resolution computed tomography and recurrent spontaneous pneumothorax

Ann Thorac Surg. 2013 Jan;95(1):249-55. doi: 10.1016/j.athoracsur.2012.05.073. Epub 2012 Jul 10.


Background: The prevention of recurrence after a first episode of primary spontaneous pneumothorax (PSP) remains a debated issue. The likelihood of recurrence based on the presence of blebs and bullae detected on high-resolution computed tomography (HRCT) imaging is controversial.

Methods: We evaluated patients conservatively treated for PSP who underwent chest HRCT scan in a single-institution retrospective longitudinal study. Absolute risk values and positive and negative predictive values of recurrence based on HRCT findings were the primary end points.

Results: We analyzed 176 patients. Ipsilateral and contralateral recurrence developed in 44.8% and 12% of patients, respectively. The risk of recurrence was significantly related to the presence of blebs or bullae, or both, at HRCT. The risk of ipsilateral recurrence for patients with or without blebs and bullae was 68.1% and 6.1%, respectively (positive predictive value, 68.1%; negative predictive value, 93.9%). The risk of contralateral pneumothorax for patients with or without blebs and bullae was 19% and 0%, respectively (positive predictive value, 19%; negative predictive value, 100%). The risk of ipsilateral recurrence was directly related to the dystrophic severity score: recurrence risk increased by up to 75% in patients with bilateral multiple lesions. Multivariate analysis showed that a positive HRCT was significantly related to ipsilateral recurrence.

Conclusions: The presence of blebs and bullae at HRCT after a first episode of PSP is significantly related to the development of an ipsilateral recurrence or a contralateral episode of pneumothorax. Further studies are needed to validate the dystrophic severity score in the selection of patients for early surgical referral.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Blister / diagnostic imaging
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Drainage / methods
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pneumothorax / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pneumothorax / therapy
  • Prognosis
  • Radiographic Image Enhancement*
  • Recurrence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Rupture, Spontaneous
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*
  • Young Adult