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Incidence and Management of Post-Lobectomy and Pneumonectomy Bronchopleural Fistula

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Bronchopleural fistula is a rare but potentially fatal complication of pulmonary resections and proper management is essential for its resolution. In this study, we analyzed the incidence of fistula after pulmonary resection and reported data about endoscopic and conservative treatments of this complication.


From January 2003 to December 2013, 835 patients underwent anatomic lung resections: 786 (94.1 %) had a lobectomy and 49 (5.9 %) a pneumonectomy. Bronchopleural fistula was suspected by clinical signs and confirmed by endoscopic visualization.


Eighteen patients (2.2 %) developed a bronchopleural fistula, 11 in lobectomy group (1.4 %) and 7 in pneumonectomy group (14.3 %). The fistula size ranged between <1 mm and 6 mm and mean time of fistula onset was 33.9 ± 54.9 days after surgery. Of 18 patients who developed fistula, one died due to acute respiratory failure and another one was reoperated and then died to causes unrelated to the treatment. All the remaining 16 patients were treated with a conservative therapy that consisted in keeping or replacing a drainage chest tube. Nine of them underwent also endoscopic closure of the fistula using biological or synthetic glues. The mean period of time elapsed for the resolution of this complication was shorter with combined (conservative + endoscopic) than with conservative treatment alone (15.4 ± 13.2 vs. 25.8 ± 13.2 days, respectively), but without significant difference between the two methods (p: 0.299).


Endoscopic therapy, associated with a conservative treatment, is a safe and useful option in the management of the postoperative bronchopleural fistula.

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The authors wish to thank the professional nurses Carla Bonanni, Ivana Palmieri, and Silvia Venditti for their valuable assistance during the bronchoscopic procedures.

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Correspondence to Leonello Fuso.

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Fuso, L., Varone, F., Nachira, D. et al. Incidence and Management of Post-Lobectomy and Pneumonectomy Bronchopleural Fistula. Lung 194, 299–305 (2016).

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