Standardized Approach to Prolonged Air Leak Reduction After Pulmonary Resection

Ann Thorac Surg. 2016 Jun;101(6):2097-101. doi: 10.1016/j.athoracsur.2016.01.049. Epub 2016 Apr 12.


Background: Prolonged air leaks after pulmonary resection lead to patient discomfort, increased hospital length of stay, greater health care costs, and increased morbidity. A standardized approach to air leak reduction (STAR) after lung resection was developed and studied.

Methods: A retrospective review was conducted of a prospective database from 1 surgeon who had adopted STAR as standard of care. Three independent factors shown to reduce air leaks are incorporated in STAR: fissureless operative technique, staple line buttressing, and protocol-driven chest tube management. Patient characteristics and outcomes were compared against aggregate data from The Society of Thoracic Surgeons National Database (2012-2014).

Results: From June 2010 through May 2015, 475 patients met the study criteria. Of these, 264 (55.6%) had lobectomies, 198 (41.7%) had wedge resections, and 13 (2.7%) had segmentectomies. Prolonged air leaks were reduced in the STAR lobectomy group by 52% (5.7% versus 10.9%; p = 0.0079) and in the STAR wedge group by 40% (2.5% versus 4.2%; p = 0.38). Hospital length of stay for lobectomies (3.2 versus 6.3 days; p = 0.0001), wedge resections (3.3 versus 4.5 days; p = 0.0152), and segmentectomies (3.2 versus 5.2 days; p = 0.0001) was significantly reduced. Readmission rate was 4% and none were related to air leak. No difference was seen in mortality rates.

Conclusions: Use of STAR for pulmonary resection, particularly for lobectomies, shows decreased postoperative prolonged air leaks when compared with The Society of Thoracic Surgeons National Database. This aggressive approach did not lead to air leak-related hospital readmissions nor compromise postoperative mortality. The STAR protocol is an innovative strategy that has the potential to improve postoperative pulmonary resection outcomes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Air
  • Chest Tubes
  • Comorbidity
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pneumonectomy / methods*
  • Pneumothorax / prevention & control*
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surgical Stapling