Management of AIDS-related pneumothorax

Gregory D. Trachiotis, Luca A. Vricella, David Alyono, Benjamin L. Aaron, William R. Hix

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Background. Pneumothorax (PTX) occurs in 5% of patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) infected with Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, and up to 50% of those will die during hospitalization. The treatment strategies for managing AIDS-related PTXs are often complex and ineffective at treating the PTX, and they can prolong hospitalization. Methods. We reviewed our experience with 36 male patients with AIDS treated for 44 PTXs over a 2.5-year period to determine if a particular therapeutic approach could allow for an earlier recovery and effective treatment of the PTX. All patients had current or prior history of Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia infection, and the CD4+ T-lymphocyte counts were less than 100/μL in 100%. Results. Twenty-seven patients with 31 PTXs were discharged from the hospital. Of these 31 PTXs, 21 had resolved at the time of the patient's discharge from the hospital, and the other 10 PTXs were converted from Pleurevac (Deknatel, Inc, Fall River, MA) drainage to a Heimlich valve for persistent bronchopleural fistula after more than 15 days of conventional treatment. The PTXs were effectively managed by tube thoracostomy alone in 18/44 PTXs (41%), tube thoracostomy plus sclerosing therapy in 2/8 PTXs (25%), and thoracotomy with blebectomy and pleurodesis in 1/3 PTXs (33%). Nine of 11 of the procedure-related PTXs responded to tube thoracostomy alone; the other 2 PTXs were converted from Pleurevac drainage to a Heimlich valve and allowed for patient discharge from the hospital in less than 10 days. Nine patients with 13 PTXs died during hospitalization. Four of these 9 patients (44%) had bilateral PTXs, and 8/9 (89%) were being treated by tube thoracostomy with Pleurevac suction for persistent bronchopleural fistula in the intensive care unit at the time of death. The 8 patients treated for 10 PTXs with a Heimlich valve had effective management of the PTX, had no morbidity associated with the Heimlich valve and no in-hospital mortality, and were discharged from the hospital to home or a hospice setting. Conclusions. The management of AIDS-related PTXs is complex and often associated with a destructive pulmonary process and other systemic disease conditions related to AIDS that result in ineffective resolution of the PTX, a prolonged hospitalization, and a high mortality. In our experience, there is a lesser role for managing the PTXs with sclerosing therapy or thoracotomy. Patients with advanced AIDS complicated by PTXs with bronchopleural fistula can be converted from a Pleurevac drainage system to a Heimlich valve with no apparent morbidity or mortality, and managed as an outpatient, thereby potentially shortening hospitalization and facilitating an earlier discharge from an acute care setting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1608-1613
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of Thoracic Surgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


Dive into the research topics of 'Management of AIDS-related pneumothorax'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this