Changing the Paradigm for Management of Pediatric Primary Spontaneous Pneumothorax: A Simple Aspiration Test Predicts Need for Operation

J Pediatr Surg. 2020 Jan;55(1):169-175. doi: 10.1016/j.jpedsurg.2019.09.043. Epub 2019 Oct 24.


Purpose: Chest tube (CT) management for pediatric primary spontaneous pneumothorax (PSP) is associated with long hospital stays and high recurrence rates. To streamline management, we explored simple aspiration as a test to predict need for surgery.

Methods: A multi-institution, prospective pilot study of patients with first presentation for PSP at 9 children's hospitals was performed. Aspiration was performed through a pigtail catheter, followed by 6 h observation with CT clamped. If pneumothorax recurred during observation, the aspiration test failed and subsequent management was per surgeon discretion.

Results: Thirty-three patients were managed with simple aspiration. Aspiration was successful in 16 of 33 (48%), while 17 (52%) failed the aspiration test and required hospitalization. Twelve who failed aspiration underwent CT management, of which 10 (83%) failed CT management owing to either persistent air leak requiring VATS or subsequent PSP recurrence. Recurrence rate was significantly greater in the group that failed aspiration compared to the group that passed aspiration [10/12 (83%) vs 7/16 (44%), respectively, P=0.028].

Conclusion: Simple aspiration test upon presentation with PSP predicts chest tube failure with 83% positive predictive value. We recommend changing the PSP management algorithm to include an initial simple aspiration test, and if that fails, proceed directly to VATS.

Type of study: Prospective pilot study LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Level III.

Keywords: Simple aspiration; Spontaneous pneumothorax; Thoracoscopic blebectomy; VATS.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Chest Tubes*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pilot Projects
  • Pneumothorax / surgery*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Recurrence
  • Thoracentesis*
  • Thoracic Surgery, Video-Assisted
  • Treatment Failure