Refractory secondary pneumothorax complicated with lung canc
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Pneumothorax is defined as the presence of air or gas in the pleural cavity. Secondary pneumothorax usually occurs in patients with overt underlying lung disease, most commonly chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Patients with poor lung function often suffer from pneumothorax with a persistent air leak. Various strategies have been employed in the treatment of such refractory pneumothorax. Bronchial occlusion with an Endobronchial Watanabe Spigot (EWS) (Novatech, Grasse, France) has been shown to be useful in treating prolonged bronchopleural fistulas.

Although the effects of bronchial occlusion with EWS are known, refractory pneumothorax often involves multiple affected bronchi, and in some cases the affected bronchi cannot be easily identified. In addition, secondary pneumothorax associated with advanced lung cancer often prolongs the treatment of pneumothorax, which can significantly reduce patients’ quality of life and prognosis.

Researchers report a case of refractory pneumothorax where collateral ventilation was successfully treated by bronchial occlusion of the affected bronchi using multiple methods. An 80-year-old Japanese man with asthma and COPD overlap was admitted for exacerbation triggered by respiratory tract infection. During hospitalization, he presented with chest pain due to pneumothorax. Subsequently, a chest drain tube was inserted and pleurodesis was performed; however, the lung could not be sufficiently expanded and an air leak remained. Further investigation revealed a tumor suspicious for lung cancer at the entrance of the left upper lobe bronchus.

Due to poor lung function, surgical treatments were deemed high risk. Therefore, we performed bronchial occlusion using the Endobronchial Watanabe Spigot (EWS). Because researchers could not determine the affected bronchi by computed tomography (CT), we located the affected bronchi by balloon occlusion test and bronchography with iopamidol. After occlusion, the air leak decreased but still persisted. Thus, we performed pleurodesis twice, and the air leak ceased completely.

Conclusively, refractory secondary pneumothorax, which affected multiple bronchi and developed into collateral ventilation due to lung cancer, was treated successfully with bronchial occlusion and EWS. In cases where the affected bronchi cannot be determined by the balloon occlusion test, bronchography with iopamidol might be an effective treatment.