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Original Research: SURGERY |

Air Leaks After Lobectomy Increase the Risk of Empyema but Not of Cardiopulmonary Complications*: A Case-Matched Analysis

Alessandro Brunelli, MD; Francesco Xiume, MD; Majed Al Refai, MD; Michele Salati, MD; Rita Marasco, MD; Armando Sabbatini, MD
Author and Funding Information

*From the Unit of Thoracic Surgery, “Umberto I°” Regional Hospital, Ancona, Italy.

Correspondence to: Alessandro Brunelli, MD, Via S. Margherita 23, 60129 Ancona, Italy; e-mail: alexit_2000@yahoo.com



Chest. 2006;130(4):1150-1156. doi:10.1378/chest.130.4.1150
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Purpose: To assess whether the presence and duration of air leaks after lobectomy are associated with an increased incidence of cardiopulmonary complications.

Methods: Propensity score analysis was used on 726 patients undergoing pulmonary lobectomy from 1995 through 2004 to form three well-matched pairs of patients: patients with prolonged air leak (PAL) [> 7 days] and without air leak; patients with short air leak (SAL) [≤ 7 days] and without air leak; and patients with SAL and PAL. These matched groups were then compared to assess postoperative hospital stay and early outcome.

Results: Patients with SAL had a longer postoperative hospital stay compared to patients without air leak (8.6 days vs 7.8 days, respectively; p < 0.0001) but had similar morbidity and mortality. Patients with PAL had a longer postoperative hospital stay compared to patients without air leak (16.2 days vs 8.3 days, respectively; p < 0.0001) and with SAL (16.9 days vs 9 days, respectively; p < 0.0001), but similar cardiopulmonary complications were noted between the groups. Patients with PAL had a higher rate of empyema compared to patients without air leak and with SAL (8.2% vs 0%, p = 0.01 and 10.4% vs.1.1%, p = 0.01, respectively).

Conclusions: The presence of air leak was not associated with an increased incidence of cardiopulmonary morbidity but was associated with an increased risk of empyema. Future prospective studies are needed to confirm safety of fast track in patients with air leak.


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