The use of light's criteria in hospitalized children with a pleural effusion of unknown etiology

Matthew D McGraw, Kyle Robison, Oren Kupfer, John T Brinton, Paul C Stillwell
Pediatric Pulmonology 2018, 53 (8): 1101-1106

OBJECTIVE: Pleural effusions are common in pediatrics. When the etiology of a pleural effusion remains unknown, adult literature recommends the use of Light's criteria to differentiate a transudate from an exudate. Pediatricians may rely on adult literature for the diagnostic management of pleural effusions as Light's criteria has not been validated in children. The purpose of this study was to review the use of Light's criteria in hospitalized children with a pleural effusion of unknown etiology.

METHODS: Retrospective review was performed on children hospitalized with a pleural effusion requiring chest tube placement or thoracentesis between January 1, 2016 to January 1, 2017 at Children's Hospital Colorado. Charts were reviewed for primary team, use of Light's criteria, pleural effusion diagnosis, and 30-day recurrence of repeat intervention or fluid analysis.

RESULTS: Sixty-eight patients were hospitalized with a pleural effusion of unknown etiology requiring intervention. Only 16 pleural effusions (24%) were classified using Light's criteria. In those patients for whom Light's criteria was used, a diagnosis or change in management occurred in 10 of 16 patients (63%). Pleural effusions were most common on the cardiology service (26/68). Use of Light's criteria was most frequent on the oncology service (7/8). Thirty-day need for repeat intervention was lower in those with Light's criteria (13%) compared to those without (27%).

CONCLUSIONS: Light's criteria were utilized infrequently in hospitalized children with a pleural effusion of unknown etiology at a single institution. There was considerable practice variation among provider teams. When utilized, Light's criteria assisted in making a diagnosis or changing management in many patients, and may lead to a reduction in 30-day recurrence requiring repeat intervention.

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