Management options for post-esophagectomy chylothorax

Surg Today. 2021 May;51(5):678-685. doi: 10.1007/s00595-020-02143-y. Epub 2020 Sep 17.


Chylothorax, although an uncommon complication of esophagectomy, is associated with high morbidity and mortality if not treated promptly. Consequently, knowledge of the thoracic duct (TD) anatomy is essential to prevent its inadvertent injury during surgery. If the TD is injured, early diagnosis and immediate intervention are of paramount importance; however, there is still no universal consensus about the management of post-operative chylothorax. With increasing advances in the spheres of interventional radiology and minimally invasive surgery, there are now several options for managing TD injury. We review this topic in detail to provide a comprehensive and practical overview to help surgeons manage this challenging complication. In particular, we discuss an appropriate step-up approach to prevent the morbidity associated with open surgery as well as the metabolic, nutritional, and immunological disorders that accompany a prolonged illness.

Keywords: Chylothorax; Embolization; Lymphangiography; Post-esophagectomy; Thoracoscopic ligation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chylothorax / etiology*
  • Chylothorax / prevention & control
  • Chylothorax / therapy*
  • Esophagectomy / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology*
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control
  • Postoperative Complications / therapy*
  • Thoracic Duct / anatomy & histology
  • Thoracic Duct / injuries