Recurrent air leak soon after pulmonary lobectomy: an analysis based on an electronic airflow evaluation†

Eur J Cardiothorac Surg. 2016 Apr;49(4):1091-4; discussion 1094. doi: 10.1093/ejcts/ezv335. Epub 2015 Sep 26.


Objectives: The objective of this analysis was to evaluate the incidence and risk factors of recurrent air leak (RAL) occurring soon after pulmonary lobectomy based on electronic airflow measurements.

Methods: A prospective observational analysis of 129 consecutive patients managed with a single chest tube connected with an electronic chest drainage system. The incidence and timing of RAL among patients who had an air leak sealed within the first 24 postoperative hours was recorded. Stepwise logistic regression and bootstrap analyses were used to test the association of several baseline and surgical variables with RAL.

Results: A total of 95 patients (68%) had their air leak stopped within 24 h after the operation. Twelve patients had RAL (13%) after the first stop. All RALs occurred within the first 24 h from operation. Logistic regression showed that the presence of moderate-to-severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD; forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1) <80% and FEV1/forced vital capacity ratio <0.7] was an independent risk factor associated with RAL (P = 0.02, bootstrap frequency 83%). Seven of 27 (26%) patients with COPD had RAL, a proportion significantly higher than in patients without COPD (5 of 68, 7.3%, P = 0.03).

Conclusions: A large proportion of patients with COPD developed RAL. In this high-risk group, we advise against chest tube removal in the first 24 h after operation, even in the case of absence or cessation of air leak.

Keywords: Air leak; COPD; Lobectomy; Lung cancer surgery.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Chest Tubes
  • Female
  • Forced Expiratory Volume
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / complications
  • Lung Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pneumonectomy / adverse effects*
  • Pneumonectomy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / complications*
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Risk Factors