Thoracic duct embolization (TDE) is an acceptable alternative procedure for treating traumatic chylothorax. The purpose of this study is to demonstrate efficacy of TDE in treating nontraumatic chylous effusions.
A retrospective review of 34 patients was conducted assessing technical and clinical success of TDE for nontraumatic chylous effusions.
Thirty-four patients (mean age, 59 years; 27 female patients) with nontraumatic chylous effusions underwent TDE. Presentations included 21 unilateral chylothoraces (61.8%), nine bilateral chylothoraces (26.5%), two isolated chylopericardiums (5.9%), and two pleural effusions with chylopericardium (5.9%). TDE was technically successful in 24 of 34 patients (70.6%). The thoracic duct could not be catheterized in four of 34 (11.8%). Cisterna chyli was not visualized in six of 34 patients (17.6%), and, thus, TDE was not attempted. Follow-up was available for 32 patients. Four lymphangiographic patterns were observed: (1) normal thoracic duct in 17.6% of patients (six of 34), (2) occlusion of thoracic duct in 58.8% (20 of 34), (3) failure to opacify thoracic duct in 17.6% (six of 34), and (4) extravasation of chyle in 5.9% (two of 34). Clinical success varied with the lymphangiographic pattern. The clinical success rate was 16% (one of six) in cases of normal thoracic duct, 75% (15 of 20 patients) in occlusions of the thoracic duct, 16% (one of six) in cases of failure to opacify the thoracic duct, and 50% in two cases of chyle extravasation. Lymphangiography alone cured two patients (6.5%).
TDE was most successful in cases of thoracic duct occlusion and extravasation. Lymphangiography is important for identifying the cause of chylous effusions and selecting patients who benefit most from TDE.