Management of pediatric postoperative chylothorax

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



The Annals of Thoracic Surgery








Questions persist about the management of postoperative chylothorax in infants and children. Our experience with postoperative chylothorax over the most recent decade (1980 to 1990) has been reviewed. The type and amount of drainage, data from cardiac catheterization and echocardiography, operative decisions and details, and eventual outcomes have been cataloged. All patients were initially treated with total gut rest, with operation reserved for unabated drainage. Chylothorax developed postoperatively in 15 infants and 11 children (18 with a cardiac procedure and 8 with a noncardiac procedure). The average age was 3.1 years. Spontaneous cessation and cure occurred in 19 (73.1%) of these 26 patients, with an average drainage duration of 11.9 days (range, 4 to 30 days). Those for whom operation was chosen drained preoperatively for an average of 29.2 days (range, 25 to 40 days). There were no deaths in either group. Complications were lymphopenia (2 patients) and fungal sepsis (1 patient). The amount of drainage per day was not significantly different between patients treated operatively and those treated nonoperatively. Failure of nonoperative management was associated with venous hypertension from increased right-sided cardiac pressures or central venous thrombosis (p < 0.05, Fisher's exact test). Presumably this increased pressure is transmitted to the lymphatic system. These patients should be identified early and considered for thoracic duct suture or pleuroperitoneal shunting. © 1993.

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