Digital Drainage System Reduces Hospitalization After Video-Assisted Thoracoscopic Surgery Lung Resection

Ann Thorac Surg. 2016 Sep;102(3):955-961. doi: 10.1016/j.athoracsur.2016.03.089. Epub 2016 May 25.


Background: The purpose of this study was to assess the efficacy of a digital versus traditional drainage system on hospitalization for patients undergoing video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) anatomic lung resection.

Methods: Consecutive patients who underwent VATS anatomic lung resection (July 2014 through January 2015) for lung cancer were analyzed. Patients were managed with overnight suction (-20 cm H2O) followed by gravity drainage (water seal or -8 cm H2O) in both the traditional and digital drainage systems, respectively; the digital system also allowed for continuous monitoring of air leaks. Chest tubes were removed when the air leak was absent for 12 hours and pleural drainage was less than 300 mL/24 h; patient outcomes selected by propensity matching were compared.

Results: The VATS lung resections (lobectomy or segmentectomy) were performed in 108 patients during the 7-month study period. The pleural cavity was drained with the traditional system in 75 patients and with the digital system in 33 patients. By propensity score matching at a 2:1 ratio, 40 patients were placed in the traditional group and 20 patients, in the digital group for analysis. Demographics, percent predicted forced expiratory volume in 1 second, tumor size, stage, and type of resection were similar between the groups. The majority of patients (85%) underwent a lobectomy. There were no operative deaths. Overall complications were fewer in the digital system group (22%) compared with the traditional system group (35%; p = 0.01). Median air leak days (-1.1), chest tube days (-1.6), and total hospital stay (-1.5) were significantly reduced in the digital drainage system group.

Conclusions: Patients undergoing VATS lung resections who were managed postoperatively with a digital drainage system experienced less morbidity and decreased hospitalization. A digital drainage system appears to be a safe alternative for management of the pleural cavity after VATS anatomic lung resection.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Drainage / methods*
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pneumonectomy*
  • Thoracic Surgery, Video-Assisted*