Study objective: Postpneumonectomy syndrome (PPS) results from extreme shift and rotation of the mediastinum after pneumonectomy producing symptomatic proximal airway obstruction and air trapping. Herein, we review our experience in the treatment of PPS.
1Patients: Five patients with PPS were treated at our institution between 1991 and 1997. Four patients had previous right pneumonectomy; one patient had left pneumonectomy. Dyspnea was the presenting symptom in all five patients. The time interval to onset of symptoms and to surgical correction ranged from 6 months to 9 years (median: 6 months) and 9 months to 29 years (median, 21 months) after pneumonectomy, respectively.
Intervention: The clinical diagnosis of PPS was confirmed with chest radiograph, two-dimensional echocardiography, pulmonary function tests, CT scan, and awake fiberoptic bronchoscopy. Correction of PPS required reexploration of the pneumonectomy space followed by anterior pericardiorrhaphy and insertion of a saline solution-filled Silastic prosthesis (Dow Corning; Midland, MI) for the purpose of correcting the overshift of the mediastinum. There was no morbidity or mortality.
Results: All patients had relief of dyspnea. Corrective repositioning of the mediastinum was confirmed by chest radiograph, CT scan, and awake fiberoptic bronchoscopy. There was a mean increase in the cross-sectional diameter, as measured by CT scan, of the obstructed bronchus by 166.7% (range, 100 to 300%) in four patients. One patient had no change in the measured diameter. Postoperatively, the peak expiratory flow rate increased by a mean of 44.2% (range, 40 to 49%) in all five patients.
Conclusion: The presence of PPS should be considered in all patients presenting with progressive dyspnea after pneumonectomy. Repositioning of the mediastinum with a saline solution-filled prosthesis and anterior pericardiorrhaphy is easily performed and provides immediate and lasting symptomatic relief.