Observation, Aspiration, or Tube Thoracostomy for Primary Spontaneous Pneumothorax: A Systematic Review, Meta-Analysis, and Cost-Utility Analysis

Chest. 2023 Oct;164(4):1007-1018. doi: 10.1016/j.chest.2023.05.017. Epub 2023 May 18.


Background: Primary spontaneous pneumothorax (PSP) has several commonly used management strategies: observation, aspiration, and chest tube placement. Economic modelling of pooled data comparing techniques has not been performed.

Research question: Based on studies from the past 20 years, which approach to management of PSP delivers the highest utility?

Study design and methods: A systematic review of PSP management strategies (observation, aspiration, or chest tube placement) included in the Medline and EMBASE databases from January 1, 2000, through April 10, 2020, was conducted. Text screening, bias assessment, and data extraction were performed by two authors (G. E. and C. A. P.). Inclusion and exclusion criteria were defined a priori. The primary outcome was PSP resolution after the initial intervention. Secondary outcomes were PSP recurrence, length of stay, rate of surgical management, and complications. The meta-analysis compared treatment arms; dichotomous outcomes were reported as relative risk (RRs) and continuous outcomes were reported as mean differences. A cost-utility analysis within the Canadian health care system context with deterministic and probabilistic sensitivity analyses was performed.

Results: Five thousand one hundred seventy-nine articles were identified; after screening, 22 articles were included. Most trials showed a high risk of bias, but randomized trials showed a lower risk. Compared with chest tube placement, observation (mean difference, 5.17; 95% CI, 3.75-6.59; P < .01; I2 = 62%) and aspiration (mean difference, 2.72; 95% CI, 2.39-3.04; P < .01; I2 = 0%) showed a shorter length of stay. Compared with observation, chest tube placement (RR, 0.81; 95% CI, 0.71-0.91; P < .01; I2 = 62%) and aspiration (RR, 0.73; 95% CI, 0.61-0.88; P < .01; I2 = 67%) showed higher resolution without additional intervention. Two-year recurrence rates did not differ between management strategies. Observation showed the best utility (0.82) and lowest cost; observation was the optimal strategy in 98.2% of Monte Carlo simulations.

Interpretation: Observation is the dominant choice compared with aspiration and chest tube placement for PSP. It should be considered as the first-line therapy in appropriately selected patients.

Keywords: cost; cost-utility analysis; economic analysis; spontaneous pneumothorax; systematic review.