Efficacy of Early Pleurectomy for Severe Congenital Chylothorax

J Surg Res. 2020 Dec:256:433-438. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2020.07.005. Epub 2020 Aug 11.


Background: Severe congenital chylothorax (SCC) may result in respiratory failure, malnutrition, immunodeficiency, and sepsis. Although typically managed with bowel rest, parenteral nutrition, and octreotide, persistent chylothoraces require surgical management. At our institution, a pleurectomy, unilateral or bilateral, in combination with mechanical pleurodesis and thoracic duct ligation is performed for SCC, and we describe our approach and outcomes.

Materials and methods: We reviewed over 15-year period neonatal patients with SCC managed surgically with pleurectomy after medical therapy was unsuccessful. Patients were divided into two groups: those who underwent pleurectomy within 28 d of diagnosis (early group) and those who underwent pleurectomy after 28 d (late group). Resolution of chylothorax was defined by the absence of clinical symptoms as well as absent or minimal pleural effusion on chest X-ray.

Results: Of 40 patients diagnosed with SCC over the study period, 15 underwent pleurectomy, eight early [mean time to operation = 20 (IQR 17, 23) d] and 7 late [59 (42, 75) d, P = 0.001]. Overall survival was 67% (10 of 15). Seven of 8 (88%) neonates who underwent early pleurectomy survived versus 3 of 7 (43%) who underwent late pleurectomy (P = 0.07). Length of stay was lower in the early group than the late group [73 (57, 79) versus 102 (109, 213) d, P = 0.05]. All patients who survived to discharge had resolution of their chylothorax.

Conclusions: Pleurectomy with mechanical pleurodesis and thoracic duct ligation is effective in the management of severe congenital chylothorax. When performed earlier, pleurectomy for severe congenital chylothorax may be associated with improved survival and shorter hospital length of stay.

Keywords: Congenital chylothorax; Lymphatic malformation; Pleural effusion; Pleurectomy.

MeSH terms

  • Chest Tubes
  • Chylothorax / congenital*
  • Chylothorax / diagnosis
  • Chylothorax / mortality
  • Chylothorax / surgery
  • Combined Modality Therapy / instrumentation
  • Combined Modality Therapy / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data
  • Ligation
  • Male
  • Pleura / surgery*
  • Pleurodesis / methods*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Thoracic Duct / surgery*
  • Time Factors
  • Time-to-Treatment*
  • Treatment Outcome

Supplementary concepts

  • Chylothorax, congenital