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Background: The aim of this study was to assess the value of instilling autologous blood into the pleural cavity to seal prolonged air leaks after lobectomy.

Methods: Of 319 lobectomies performed over an 18-month period, 22 patients (6.9%) experienced prolonged air leak (more than 5 days after surgery). Twenty patients consented to be randomly assigned to one of two treatment pathways. The study group received instillation of 120 mL autologous blood into their apical chest drain on the fifth postoperative day, and again if the air leak persisted on days 7 and 9 respectively. No anticoagulation was used for this blood. The control group continued to be treated by tube thoracostomy alone, but if the air leak was still present on the 10th postoperative day they "crossed over" and underwent intrapleural installation of blood as in the study group.

Results: After instillation of blood, the air leak was sealed by the next day in 58.6% of treatments. The median length of air leak was 5 days in the study group and 11 days in the control group (p < 0.001). Time to chest drain removal (median 6.5 days versus 12 days) and hospital discharge (median 8 days versus 13.5 days) were both significantly (p < 0.001) shorter in the study group.

Conclusions: This technique is effective in sealing air leaks after lobectomy. It allows earlier chest drain removal and shortens hospital stay.

(C)2006 Elsevier, Inc.