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Eur J Cardiothorac Surg. 2012 May;41(5):1069-71. doi: 10.1093/ejcts/ezr196. Epub 2011 Dec 21.

Caveats in using vacuum-assisted closure for post-pneumonectomy empyema.

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Department of Thoracic Surgery and Oncology, National Cancer Institute, Naples, Italy.



Vacuum-assisted closure (VAC) of chronic empyemas can potentially set challenging patients free of prolonged hospitalization by warranting outpatient care. We wanted to test this concept in post-pneumonectomy empyema patients.


Three patients with post-pneumonectomy bronchopleural fistula were subjected to open window thoracostomy (OWT) and subsequently to VAC. The BPFs were closed by endobronchial stents in 2 of the patients. The VAC system was applied at a median time of 35 days (range, 23-113) after pneumonectomy. The patients were scheduled for outpatient visits every three days with complete change of the VAC sponges.


Hypotension and acute thoracic pain despite minimal suction applied to the VAC sponges were observed during treatment and eventually caused VAC discontinuation. In one patient, the sponges of the VAC system could not be directly removed through the OWT and careful dissection through VATS under deep sedation was needed.


VAC can be of help to obliterate the post-pneumonectomy empyema cavity but its use can trigger clinically significant complications. Cautious monitoring of the VAC system must be exercised in the early period prior to discharging patients to the outpatient clinic.

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