Sixteen years of experience with persistent chylothorax in children

Alessio Pini Prato, Gian L Bava, Pietro Dalmonte, Nadia Vercellino, Alberto Michelazzi, Luca Pio, Stefano Avanzini, Girolamo Mattioli
Minerva Pediatrica 2017, 69 (6): 476-480

BACKGROUND: Persistent chylothorax in children is rare. Conservative management represents the gold standard but, in case of failure (persistent effusion or relapse), surgery must be considered. This paper aimed at presenting our series of patients who underwent surgical treatment of persistent idiopathic chylothorax and at discussing the role of thoracic duct ligation in its management.

METHODS: We included all patients who underwent surgery for persistent chylothorax in the period between January 1994 and January 2010.

RESULTS: Nine patients were included (median age 25 months). Five patients had primitive or idiopathic chylothorax. Five patients had right-sided chylothorax, 3 left-sided, and 1 bilateral. Pleurodesis was applied to 8 patients (bilateral in one) and thoracic duct ligation to 4 patients for a total of 12 procedures in 9 patients. Complete cessation occurred within a median of 5 days (range 2 to 10) after thoracic duct ligation and 10 days (range 4 to 25) after pleurodesis. In 3 patients (all with right sided effusion and a median daily output higher than 20 ml/kg) pleurodesis failed and thoracic duct ligation was subsequently required to definitively treat chylothorax. Conversely, 5 patients were effectively treated with pleurodesis and 1 with thoracic duct ligation alone. Regardless of previous procedures, none of the patients who underwent thoracic duct ligation experienced relapses.

CONCLUSIONS: Although based on a small number of patients, our experience confirmed that thoracic duct ligation represents an effective therapeutic option for persistent unresponsive chylothorax. In cases of right sided effusion with high output rate (>20 mL/kg) thoracic duct ligation might be considered as first choice treatment.

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