Outcomes of patients discharged home with a chest tube after lung resection: a multicentre cohort study Academic Article uri icon

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  • Background

    Prolonged air leaks are increasingly treated in the outpatient setting, with patients discharged with chest tubes in place. We evaluated the incidence and risk factors associated with readmission, empyema development and further interventions in this patient population.


    We undertook a retrospective cohort analysis of all patients from 4 tertiary academic centres (January 2014 to December 2017) who were discharged home with a chest tube after lung resection for a postoperative air leak lasting more than 5 days. We analyzed demographics, patient factors, surgical details, hospital readmission, reintervention, antibiotics at discharge, empyema and death.


    Overall, 253 of 2794 patients were analyzed (9.0% of all resections), including 30 of 759 from centre 1 (4.0%), 67 of 857 from centre 2 (7.8%), 9 of 247 from centre 3 (3.6%) and 147 of 931 from centre 4 (15.8%) (p < 0.001). Our cohort consisted of 56.5% men, and had a median age of 69 (range 19-88) years. Despite similar initial lengths of stay (p = 0.588), 49 patients (19.4%) were readmitted (21%, 0%, 23% and 11% from centres 1 to 4, respectively, p = 0.029), with 18 (36.7%) developing empyema, 11 (22.4%) requiring surgery and 3 (6.1%) dying. Only chest tube duration was a significant predictor of readmission (p < 0.001) and empyema development (p = 0.003), with a nearly threefold increased odds of developing empyema when the chest tube remained in situ for more than 20 days.


    Discharge with chest tube after lung resection is associated with serious adverse events. Given the high risk of empyema development, removal of chest tubes should be considered, when appropriate, within 20 days of surgery. Our data suggest a potential need for proactive postdischarge outpatient management programs to diminish risk of morbidity and death.

publication date

  • February 8, 2022