Review Article of Interventional Pulmonology Corner

Persistent air leaks: a review with an emphasis on bronchoscopic management

Donald R. Lazarus, Roberto F. Casal


Persistent air leak (PAL) is a cause of significant morbidity in patients who have undergone lung surgery and those with significant parenchymal lung disease suffering from a pneumothorax. Its management can be complex and challenging. Although conservative treatment with chest drain and observation is usually effective, other invasive techniques are needed when conservative treatment fails. Surgical management and medical pleurodesis have long been the usual treatments for PAL. More recently numerous bronchoscopic procedures have been introduced to treat PAL in those patients who are poor candidates for surgery or who decline surgery. These techniques include bronchoscopic use of sealants, sclerosants, and various types of implanted devices. Recently, removable one-way valves have been developed that are able to be placed bronchoscopically in the affected airways, ameliorating air-leaks in patients who are not candidates for surgery. Future comparative trials are needed to refine our understanding of the indications, effectiveness, and complications of bronchoscopic techniques for treating PAL. The following article will review the basic principles of management of PAL particularly focusing on bronchoscopic techniques.

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