Digital versus traditional air leak evaluation after elective pulmonary resection: a prospective and comparative mono-institutional study

J Thorac Dis. 2015 Oct;7(10):1719-24. doi: 10.3978/j.issn.2072-1439.2015.09.12.


Background: The increased demand to reduce costs and hospitalization in general pushed several institution worldwide to develop fast-tracking protocols after pulmonary resections. One of the commonest causes of protracted hospital stay remains prolonged air leaks (ALs). We reviewed our clinical practice with the aim to compare traditional vs. digital chest drainages in order to evaluate which is the more effective to correctly manage the chest tube after pulmonary resection.

Methods: All patients submitted to elective pulmonary resection for lung malignancies, between April to December, 2014 in our General Thoracic Surgery Department were included in the study. The primary outcome was the chest tube duration, the secondary the postoperative overall hospitalization. Significant differences between traditional and digital groups were investigated with logistic regression models. Numerical variables between the groups were compared by means of the unpaired Wilcoxon-Mann-Whitney test.

Results: Both series of patients were comparable for clinical, surgical and pathological characteristics. Chest tube duration showed to be significantly shorter in the digital group (3 vs. 5 days, P=0.0009), while the hospitalization was longer in traditional one [8 vs. 7 days in digital drainage (DD); P=0.0385]. No chest drainage replacement was required at 30-day, in both groups.

Conclusions: We were able to demonstrate that patients managed with a digital system experienced a shorter chest tube duration as well as a lower overall hospital length of stay, compared to those who received the traditional drainage (TD).

Keywords: Air leak (AL); chest drainage; digital chest drainage system; postoperative management; traditional chest drainage system.