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Chylothorax: diagnosis and management in children.

Chylothorax is the accumulation of chyle in the pleural space, as a result of damage to the thoracic duct. Chyle is milky fluid enriched with fat secreted from the intestinal cells and lymphatic fluid. Chylothorax in children, is most commonly seen as a complication of cardiothoracic surgery but may occur in newborns or conditions associated with abnormal lymphatics. The diagnosis is based on biochemical analysis of the pleural fluid, which contains chylomicrons, high levels of triglycerides and lymphocytes. Investigations to outline the lymphatic channels can prove helpful in some cases. Initial treatment consists of drainage, dietary modifications, total parenteral nutrition and time for the thoracic duct to heal. Somatostatin and its analogue octreotide may be useful in some cases. Surgery should be considered for patients who fail these initial steps, or in whom complications such as electrolyte and fluid imbalance, malnutrition or immunodeficiency persist. Surgical intervention may be attempted thoracoscopically with repair or ligation of the thoracic duct.

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