Characterization and importance of air leak after lobectomy

Ikenna Okereke, Sudish C. Murthy, Joan M. Alster, Eugene H. Blackstone, Thomas W. Rice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

113 Scopus citations


Background. Air leak after pulmonary resection is a common occurrence that is incompletely characterized. Our objectives were to determine prevalence of air leak and identify its risk factors, characterize its duration and discover its correlates, and evaluate its clinical importance. Methods. Air leak was studied in 319 patients undergoing isolated anatomic lobectomy between January 1998 and July 2001. Risk factors for air leak were identified by logistic regression of patient characteristics, indications for lobectomy, lobe resected, and fissure management. Factors associated with air leak duration were sought by time-related analysis. Association of complications with air leak was evaluated by propensity-matched pairs analysis. Results. Prevalence: Air leak prevalence was 58% (186 patients). It occurred less frequently after left lower lobectomy (p < 0.0001) and later in the series (p = 0.008). It was surgeon dependent (p = 0.007) but not associated with forced expiratory volume in 1 second. Duration: The 10th, 50th, and 90th percentiles of air leak duration were 1.6, 3, and 7 days, respectively. No factors, including fissure management, were reliably associated with air leak duration. Importance: Air leak was associated with more complications (30% vs 18%, p = 0.07) and protracted hospital course (p = 0.02). Conclusions. Postoperative air leak is a common occurrence after lobectomy, but fortunately it is self-limiting in most patients. Air leak is independently associated with longer hospital stay and other postoperative complications. Surgical technique is important and may be the only modifiable factor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1167-1173
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of Thoracic Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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