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Persistent air leak (bronchopleural fistula) in neonates

Journal of Pediatrics & Neonatal Care
Sunita Ojha,1 Goutam Sen,2 Rajiv Bansal,3 Anupam Chaturvedi,3 Mahaveer Saini3


Background: Pneumothorax is a known complication in neonates on ventilation but persistent air leak is infrequently seen in neonates and is troublesome to manage. Persistent air leak on chest tube insertion is suggestive of bronchopleural fistula, often resulting in significant mortality and morbidity. Various modalities of management like multiple chest tube insertions (thoracostomies), selective bronchial occlusion, pleurodesis using talc, tetracycline etc and urgent surgery to repair the leak have been mentioned. Islolated case reports for management of bronchopleural fistula in neonates are abound in literature but consensus and attention should be directed to improve awareness and access to clinical guidelines in management of bronchopleural fistula in neonates.
Methods: Our aim was to evaluate the management and outcome of neonates with persistent air leak (bronchopleural fistula).
Result: Eighteen neonates with bronchopleural fistula (BPF) were managed from 2012-2018. All neonates were managed by chest tube insertion, and slow suction (10-15cm of H2O). In those patients having persistent pneumothorax despite functioning tube with persistent air leak, second chest tube was inserted in 2nd intercostal space. Five of these patients even had cardiac arrest due to tension pneumothorax but were revived. One neonate required pleurodesis, two expired and remaining improved on multiple chest tube insertion and were discharged. None required selective bronchial intubation or surgery.
Conclusion: Tension pneumothorax with persistent air leak on chest tube suggestive of Broncho-pleural fistula is a difficult and a rare problem in neonates. If not timely taken care of it can lead to cardiac arrest but despite cardiac arrest aggressive resuscitation and judicious use of multiple chest tube drainage and slow suction can help these little patients improve.


pneumothorax, bronchopleural fistula, tension pneumothorax in neonates, pneumothorax in neonates persistent air leak