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Original Research: CRITICAL CARE |

Chest Tube Drainage of Transudative Pleural Effusions Hastens Liberation From Mechanical Ventilation

Yizhak Kupfer, MD; Chanaka Seneviratne, MD; Kabu Chawla, MD; Kavan Ramachandran, MD; Sidney Tessler, MD, FCCP
Author and Funding Information

From Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Maimonides Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY.

Correspondence to: Sidney Tessler, MD, FCCP, Maimonides Medical Center, 953 49th St, Ste 511, Brooklyn, NY 11219; e-mail: stessler@maimonidesmed.org


Reproduction of this article is prohibited without written permission from the American College of Chest Physicians (http://www.chestpubs.org/site/misc/reprints.xhtml).


© 2011 American College of Chest Physicians


Chest. 2011;139(3):519-523. doi:10.1378/chest.10-1012
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Background:  Pleural effusions occur frequently in patients requiring mechanical ventilatory support. Treatment of the precipitating cause and resolution of the pleural effusion may take considerable time. We retrospectively studied the effect of chest tube drainage of transudative pleural effusions on the liberation of patients from mechanical ventilatory support.

Methods:  Patients in the medical ICU (MICU) at Maimonides Medical Center between January 1, 2009, and October 31, 2009, requiring mechanical ventilatory support with a transudative pleural effusion, were studied retrospectively. They were divided into two groups: standard care and standard care plus chest tube drainage. Chest tubes were placed under ultrasound guidance by trained intensivists. Duration of mechanical ventilatory support was the primary end point. Secondary end points included measures of oxygenation, amount of fluid drained, and complications associated with the chest tube.

Results:  A total of 168 patients were studied; 88 were treated with standard care and 80 underwent chest tube drainage. Total duration of mechanical ventilatory support was significantly shorter for patients who had chest tube drainage: 3.8 ± 0.5 days vs 6.5 ± 1.1 days for the standard group (P = .03). No differences in oxygenation were noted between the two groups. The average amount of fluid drained was 1,220 mL. No significant complications were caused by chest tube drainage.

Conclusions:  Chest tube drainage of transudative pleural effusions resulted in more rapid liberation from mechanical ventilatory support. It is a very safe procedure when performed under ultrasound guidance by experienced personnel.

Trial registry:  ClinicalTrials.gov; Identifier: NCT0114285; URL: www.clinicaltrials.gov

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