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Prophylactic ligation of the thoracic duct branch prevents chylothorax after pulmonary resection for right lung cancer

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Chylothorax is a rare and challenging complication of thoracic surgery. Whereas most current studies focus on postoperative treatment and preventative measures for esophageal cancer surgery, the current study investigates the impact of prophylactic ligation of the thoracic duct branch on postoperative chylothorax after pulmonary resection for right lung cancer.


The subjects of this retrospective study were 1165 patients who underwent right pulmonary resection and mediastinal lymph-node dissection in our department between January 2015 and August 2019. Those who underwent prophylactic ligation of the thoracic duct branch after 4R lymph-node dissection were assigned to group A (n = 475), and those who did not were assigned to group B (n = 690). The incidence of postoperative chylothorax, the success rate of conservative treatment, the postoperative hospital stay, and the chest drainage volume were recorded and compared statistically between the two groups.


The incidence of postoperative chylothorax was significantly lower in group A than in group B (0.84% vs. 2.90%, p = 0.015). Patients who had a chylothorax in group A had a significantly shorter postoperative hospital stay, less mean drainage volume per day, and less total drainage than those in group B (7.25 ± 0.50 days vs. 11.00 ± 2.81 days, p = 0.003; 0.64 ± 0.04 L vs. 0.80 ± 0.09 L, p = 0.003; 4.64 ± 0.40 L vs. 8.82 ± 2.84 L; p = 0.002). The success rate of conservative treatment was higher in group A than in group B, but the difference was not significant (100% vs. 75.0%, p = 0.544).


Performing prophylactic ligation of the thoracic duct branch during right pulmonary resection and mediastinal lymph-node dissection is an effective and safe method of preventing postoperative chylothorax.

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YG conceived and designed the experiments. ZL extracted the data. MD and YL assessed the quality of included studies. XL and SJ conducted the statistical analyses. ZL wrote the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Yushun Gao.

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The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

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Liu, Z., Du, M., Liang, Y. et al. Prophylactic ligation of the thoracic duct branch prevents chylothorax after pulmonary resection for right lung cancer. Surg Today 50, 881–888 (2020).

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