Treatment strategies for bronchopleural fistula

J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 1995 May;109(5):989-95; discussion 995-6. doi: 10.1016/S0022-5223(95)70325-X.


Successful management of chronic postoperative bronchopleural fistula remains a challenge for thoracic surgeons. Forty-two patients (33 referred from other institutions) were treated for major postoperative bronchopleural fistula since 1978. Factors associated with bronchopleural fistula included right pneumonectomy (n = 23), left pneumonectomy (n = 8), long bronchial stump (n = 16), pneumonia (n = 13), radiation therapy (n = 12), stapled bronchial closure (n = 8), prolonged mechanical ventilation (n = 7), recurrent carcinoma (n = 6), and tuberculosis (n = 2). Patients had undergone an average of 3.3 surgical procedures to correct their bronchopleural fistulas during a mean interval of 24 months before our treatment. Bronchopleural fistulas were located in the right main bronchial stump (n = 23), left main bronchial stump (n = 8), right lobar bronchial stumps (n = 10), and tracheobronchial anastomosis (n = 1). Thirty-five patients were treated by suture closure of the bronchial stump, buttressed with vascularized pedicle flaps of omentum (n = 19), muscle (n = 13), or pleura (n = 2). In seven cases, direct suture closure was not possible, and omental (n = 6) or muscle (n = 1) flaps were sutured over the bronchopleural fistula. Suture closure without pedicle coverage was performed successfully in one case. Initial repair of the fistula was successful in 23 of 25 patients treated with omentum, in nine of 14 patients treated with muscle and in neither of two patients treated with pleural flaps. In nine patients with persistent or recurrent bronchopleural fistula after our initial repair, four underwent a second procedure (three successful) and five were managed with drainage only. The fistula was successfully closed in 11 of 12 patients who had received high-dose radiation therapy (nine with omentum). Overall, successful closure of bronchopleural fistula was achieved in 36 of 42 patients (86%). Four in-hospital deaths resulted from pneumonia and sepsis, two in patients with recurrent bronchopleural fistula after pleural flap closure. In 16 patients the empyema cavity was obliterated during definitive repair of the fistula. The cavity resolved with drainage in four others, nine had draining cavities at follow-up, and one was lost to follow-up. Ten patients required a total of 17 Clagett procedures and one had a delayed myoplasty. Direct surgical repair of chronic bronchopleural fistula may be achieved in most patients after adequate pleural drainage by suture closure and aggressive transposition of vascularized pedicle flaps. Omentum is particularly effective in buttressing the closure of bronchopleural fistulas.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bronchial Fistula / surgery*
  • Empyema / surgery
  • Female
  • Fistula / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Pleural Diseases / surgery*
  • Recurrence
  • Surgical Flaps