Feasibility and Efficacy of Defatted Human Milk in the Treatment for Chylothorax After Cardiac Surgery in Infants

Pediatr Cardiol. 2016 Aug;37(6):1072-7. doi: 10.1007/s00246-016-1393-8. Epub 2016 Apr 18.


Chylothorax is a well-described complication after cardiothoracic surgery in children. Medical nutritional therapy for chylothorax includes medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) formulas and reduction in enteral long-chain triglyceride intake to reduce chyle production. Human milk is usually eliminated from the diet of infants with chylothorax because of its high long-chain triglyceride content. However, given the immunologic properties of human milk, young infants with chylothorax may benefit from using human milk over human milk substitutes. We performed a retrospective cohort study to describe the feasibility and efficacy of defatted human milk (DHM) for the treatment for chylothorax in infants after cardiac surgery and to compare growth outcomes between infants treated with DHM (n = 14) versus MCT formula (n = 21). There were no differences in mortality or length of hospital stay between the DHM and MCT formula treatment groups. The DHM treatment group had a significantly higher weight-for-age z-score at hospital discharge compared to the MCT formula group with median z-scores of -1 (-2 to 0.5) and -1.5 (-2 to 0), respectively (p = 0.02). In infants with chylothorax after cardiac surgery, DHM is a safe and feasible medical nutritional treatment and may have potential benefits for improved nutrition and growth.

Keywords: Cardiac surgery; Chylothorax; Human milk; Infants.

MeSH terms

  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures
  • Chylothorax*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Milk, Human
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Triglycerides


  • Triglycerides