Surgery for Spontaneous Pneumothorax

Goals of surgery

Patients with a persistent air leak from the chest tube for more than five days or those with recurrent or bilateral spontaneous pneumothorax may be candidates for surgery.

Goals of surgery:

  • Identify bullae (blebs) responsible for the air leak and remove them if they are present.
  • Obliterate the pleural space and minimize the chances for future lung collapse.

The operation is usually performed using a video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS), with two to four small incisions.

After surgery

After your child has surgery to treat spontaneous pneumothorax, she will spend an hour or so recovering in the post-acute care unit before returning to a room in the hospital. She will likely have a chest tube after the operation, which may need to remain in place for a number of days.

Your child will experience some pain and will receive pain medications throughout the stay. Some patients will initially require IV pain medications and then transition to oral pain medications. The pain management team will work with the surgical team and your child to provide adequate pain control.

Your child may have chest incisions with a clear adhesive glue dressing or gauze covering the site. The clear adhesive will dissolve and peel off naturally; the gauze dressings will be removed 48-72 hours after surgery. 

Follow-up care

If your child has an operation or receives inpatient treatment with a chest tube or oxygen therapy to treat spontaneous pneumothorax, you will need to make an appointment to see the surgeon for follow-up three to four weeks after discharge. After your child has been treated for spontaneous pneumothorax, it is important that you carefully monitor her health. Learn more about follow-up care and when to call the doctor.

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