What is a prolonged air leak?
In many surgeries, where portions of the lung have been cut, removed, or punctured, air leaks are common complications. Air leaks are caused because the lung tissue does not always completely close and seal using standard surgical tools, such as surgical staples and surgical glues. Most patients will have chest tubes put in their thorax after lung surgery, to prevent a build up of air inside the chest, which would make breathing difficult (See Figure 1). Chest tubes help remove the air from the chest and make breathing easier after surgery. In most cases, the air leak will seal and close after a few days. However, some patients will have a prolonged or severe air leak. If this is the case, the patient will need to keep the chest tubes in for a longer period, and may require a longer stay in the hospital.
Risks to patients from prolonged use of chest tubes
• If a patient is not able to move around because of the chest tubes, the reduced activity can lead to a higher chance
• If a patient needs pain medication for a longer period of time, the medication can lead to a higher chance
• If a patient spends a long time in the hospital, they have a higher chance of getting hospital-acquired infections.
There are two common surgeries (operations) that are used to help fix prolonged or severe air leaks. They are pleurodesis and/or re-operation. Your doctor can give you more information about these two operations. To avoid the complications and risks of another surgery, your doctor may consider using the IBV Valve System to control your air leak.
Please note that this website is meant for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice or treatment. Patients should consult with a physician to discuss treatment alternatives.