Low-fat diet management strategy for chylothorax after pulmonary resection and lymph node dissection for primary lung cancer

J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2013 Sep;146(3):571-4. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcvs.2013.04.015. Epub 2013 Jun 12.


Objective: We reviewed our experience of iatrogenic chylothorax after pulmonary resection for primary lung cancer to evaluate a low-fat diet management strategy.

Methods: From October 2003 to March 2010, 1580 patients underwent lobectomy or greater resection and systematic mediastinal lymph node dissection for primary lung cancer at our institution. Chylothorax was diagnosed on the basis of chylous leakage from the chest tube and was confirmed by presence of triglycerides (>110 mg/dL) in the drainage fluid. We initially treated the patients with chylothorax conservatively with a low-fat diet (fat intake <10 g/day). If chest tube drainage produced >500 mL of chylous fluid during the first 24 hours after the initiation of the low-fat diet, surgical intervention was performed. If chest tube drainage produced >300 mL/day of chylous fluid after 3 days of a low-fat diet, we performed pleurodesis by injecting a preparation of OK-432, a penicillin-treated lyophilized preparation of a Streptococcus strain into the thoracic cavity through a chest tube.

Results: Postoperative chylothorax developed in 37 patients (2.3%), 33 men and 4 women, with a median age of 69 years (range, 44-84). The initial procedures were pneumonectomy in 1 patient and lobectomy in 36 patients. In 23 patients (62%), their condition resolved with the low-fat diet only. A total of 10 patients underwent OK-432 pleurodesis, and 8 of these were cured with continuation of the low-fat diet. These 31 patients who responded to conservative treatment (84%) resumed a normal diet at a median of 10 days (range, 5-27) after the chylothorax diagnosis. The remaining 6 patients (16%) underwent reoperation and were discharged at a median of 18 days (range, 14-33) after the initial surgery.

Conclusions: A low-fat diet and OK-432 pleurodesis achieved positive results in >80% of patients with chylothorax after pulmonary resection with systematic mediastinal lymph node dissection within 4 weeks after the initial surgery. More than 500 mL of chylous fluid during the first 24 hours after the initiation of the low-fat diet was valid as an indication of the need for surgical intervention.

Keywords: 10; 10.4; TPN; total parenteral nutrition.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Chest Tubes
  • Chylothorax / diagnosis
  • Chylothorax / diet therapy*
  • Chylothorax / etiology
  • Diet, Fat-Restricted*
  • Drainage / instrumentation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iatrogenic Disease*
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Lung Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Lymph Node Excision / adverse effects*
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology
  • Lymph Nodes / surgery*
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pleurodesis
  • Pneumonectomy / adverse effects*
  • Reoperation
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome