Fate of spontaneous pneumothorax from middle to old age: how to overcome an irritating recurrence?

Seung Hyuk Nam, Kun Woo Kim, Sung-Whan Kim, Si-Wook Kim, Jong-Myeon Hong, Dohun Kim


Background: The causes and treatment of pneumothorax in older patients are different from those in younger patients. However, studies on this topic are limited thus; pneumothorax in older patients is often inadequately managed. The purpose of this research was to investigate the characteristics of pneumothorax in patients over 45 years old, understand patterns of management and factors of recurrence, and propose reasonable guidelines for the treatment of older patients.
Methods: Of 438 consecutive patients with spontaneous pneumothorax between 2013 and 2017, 120 patients were enrolled and divided into two groups: (I) 45–64 years and (II) ≥65 years. Basic demographics, treatment modality, and patterns of surgery/recurrence were described. Clinical variables were compared between groups, and risk factors of recurrence were analyzed using logistic regression.
Results: The study population was divided into group A (younger, n=61) and B (older, n=59). Chest tube drainage was the most common procedure for both groups and chemical pleurodesis was applied more often in B (27% vs. 11%, P=0.03). The length of hospital stay was longer in B (8.8 vs. 5.9 days, P<0.01) but complications and recurrence rate did not differ between groups (P=0.09 and 0.93). The choice of procedures in recurrent pneumothorax was different (P=0.02). Specifically, invasive procedures such as surgery occurred more often in A, but non-invasive procedures occurred more often in B. Multivariate analysis revealed that bullae/blebs (odds ratio=5.57) and emphysema (odds ratio=3.83) showed a positive association with recurrence whereas surgery (odds ratio=0.11) was negative.
Conclusions: Radiological findings of emphysema or bullae/blebs are risk factors for recurrence of pneumothorax in elderly patients. Surgery in selected patients is an effective method for decreasing the recurrence rate.