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Daily chest roentgenograms are unnecessary in nonhypoxic patients who have undergone pulmonary resection by thoracotomy.

BACKGROUND: The purpose of this study is to assess the clinical benefit of performing a daily chest roentgenogram (CXR) on patients who have had a pulmonary resection.

METHODS: Patients underwent thoracotomy and pulmonary resection, and all had a daily CXR. The impact the CXR had on their care was evaluated. Hypoxia was defined as a sustained decrease in oxygen saturation of 6% or greater from patient's baseline.

RESULTS: Between January 2006 and December 2009, 1,037 patients met the eligibility criteria for this study. Types of resection were wedge in 282 patients, segmentectomy in 146, and lobectomy in 609. Only 20 of the 834 patients (2%) who did not have a pneumothorax on the recovery room CXR had hypoxia, compared with 42 patients (21%) who had a recovery room pneumothorax (odds ratio 10.6, 95% confidence interval: 6.1 to 18.5, p<0.001). Daily CXR changed the care of only 268 of 975 patients (27%) who never had hypoxia compared with 49 of the 62 patients (79%) who were hypoxic (odds ratio 9.2, 95% confidence interval: 4.3 to 13.7, p<0.001). Moreover, the changes in care made by the CXR in the 268 nonhypoxic patients were for small pneumothoraces, and the impact of these changes is dubious.

CONCLUSIONS: Daily CXRs are not needed in the vast majority of patients who undergo elective pulmonary resection after thoracotomy. It is of little benefit for patients who do not have a pneumothorax on their recovery room CXR or for patients who do not become hypoxic.

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