Purpose: Postoperative air leakage does not always originate from parenchymal defects. In some cases, it may arise from defects in the chest drainage unit itself or connections, or from reverse airflow in water seals. The aim of the present study was to test a new chest drainage unit in the clinic, where an integrated CO2-sensitive colour indicator helps to distinguish false air leakage from true air leakage.
Methods: Over a 3-week period, 14 consecutive patients were operated upon using either an open approach (for bilobectomies) or VATS (for diagnostic procedures or lobectomies). All patients received general anaesthesia with double-lumen intubation. All patients had a 24-Fr chest tube connected to a chest drainage unit with a built-in CO2-detector.
Results: In all patients with air leakage after surgery, we found a colour change in the CO2-sensitive colour indicator, confirming "true air leakage". One patient had prolonged air leakage. None of the patients had pneumothorax after removal of the chest tube and no patients had wound infections or any other complications.
Conclusion: The chest drainage unit described here was easily implemented in the clinic and clearly confirmed true air leakage in all patients with air leakage after lung surgery. It allowed safe and appropriate timing for chest tube removal with no need for reinsertion in a broad cohort of patients referred for thoracic surgery.