Chylothorax after pediatric cardiac surgery complicates short-term but not long-term outcomes—a propensity matched analysis

Nikoletta R. Czobor, György Roth, Zsolt Prodán, Daniel J. Lex, Erzsébet Sápi, László Ablonczy, Mihály Gergely, Edgar A. Székely, János Gál, Andrea Székely


Background: The occurrence of postoperative chylothorax in children with congenital heart disease is a rare and serious complication in cardiac intensive care units (ICUs). The aim of our study was to identify the perioperative characteristics, treatment options, resource utilization and long term complications of patients having chylothorax after a pediatric cardiac surgery.
Methods: Patients were retrospectively assessed for the presence of chylothorax between January 2002 and December 2012 in a tertiary national cardiac center. Occurrence, treatment options and long term outcomes were analyzed. Chylothorax patients less than 2 years of age were analyzed using propensity-matched statistical analysis in regard to postoperative complications after discharge.
Results: During the 10-year period, 48 patients had chylothorax after pediatric cardiac surgery. The highest incidence was observed on the second postoperative day (7 patients, 14.6%). Seven patients (14.6% of the chylothorax population) died. During the follow up period, 5 patients had additional thromboembolic complications (2 had confirmed thrombophilia). Eleven patients had a genetic abnormality (3 had Down’s syndrome, 3 had Di-Giorge’s syndrome, 1 had an IgA deficiency and 4 had other disorders). During the reoperations (49 cases), no chylothorax occurred. After propensity matching, the occurrence of pulmonary failure (P=0.001) was significantly higher in the chylothorax group, and they required prolonged mechanical ventilation (P=0.002) and longer hospitalization times (P=0.01). After discharge, mortality and neurologic and thromboembolic events did not differ in the matched groups.
Conclusions: Chylothorax is an uncommon complication after pediatric cardiac surgery and is associated with higher resource utilization. Chylothorax did not reoccur during reoperations and was not associated with higher mortality or long-term complications in a propensity matched analysis.