Intrathoracic application of a vacuum-assisted closure device in managing pleural space infection after lung resection: Is it an option?

Alireza Haghshenasskashani, Mohammad Rahnavardi*, Tristan D. Yan, Brian C. Mccaughan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Empyema after lung resection is a challenging condition to manage and is associated with a high mortality. Intrathoracic application of a vacuum-assisted closure (VAC) device is recently introduced as an adjunct in the management of this condition. A best evidence topic was constructed to address whether this approach is effective in successful chest closure and reducing hospital stay. Twenty-three papers were found using the reported search, of which nine papers were identified that provided the best evidence to answer the question. All papers were retrospective and included a total of 69 patients treated with intrathoracic VAC. There was only one cohort study and the rest were either case series or case reports. In a cohort of 19 patients reported by Palmen et al. the average duration of an open window thoracostomy in a group of patients with VAC (n = 11) was 39 ± 17 days and in those without VAC (n = 8) was 933 ± 1422 days. Median length of VAC treatment was 22 days (range 6-66 days) in a series of 28 patients reported by Saadi et al. Some authors excluded patients with a bronchopleural fistula (BPF) from VAC treatment. However, Groetzner et al. have safely used VAC in patients with BPF after covering the bronchus stump with an intrathoracic muscle flap. The mediastinum and the bronchus can be covered using a polyvinyl-alcohol foam. Polyurethane foam is commonly used to fill the intrathoracic cavity up to the superficial wound. The suggested starting level of negative pressure is as low as -25 mmHg to -75 mmHg depending on the presence or absence of signs of mediastinal traction; this negative pressure can gradually be increased to -125 mmHg over time. The recommended interval between VAC changes is two to five days. Accumulated evidence in this article, although limited, suggests that VAC, as an adjunct to the standard treatment, can potentially alleviate the morbidity and decrease hospital stay in patients with empyema after lung resection. VAC can reduce inpatient length of treatment and can make the condition manageable in an outpatient setting. These results are yet to be proven by larger studies and clinical trials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)168-174
Number of pages7
JournalInteractive Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2011
Externally publishedYes


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