Fat-Modified Breast Milk Resolves Chylous Pleural Effusion in Infants With Postsurgical Chylothorax but Is Associated With Slow Growth

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Chylothorax occurs in ˜3%-5% of infants undergoing cardiac surgery. Standard treatment requires discontinuation of breast milk feeding, due to the abundance of long-chain triglycerides and transition to a medium-chain triglyceride (MCT)-based formula.


To determine the effectiveness of fat-modified breast milk (MBM) for the treatment of chylothorax compared with MCT formula.

Materials and Methods:

Infants diagnosed with chylothorax following surgery for congenital heart disease between January 2008 and December 2009 at The Hospital for Sick Children were eligible for this nonrandomized open-label study. Treatment infants (n = 8) received mother's own milk that had been modified by removing the fat layer via centrifugation and adding MCT, nutrients, and essential fatty acids to provide an estimated 74 kcal/100 mL and 1.4 g/100 mL protein (MBM group). Control infants (n = 8) received an MCT formula (MCT group). The feeding intervention was a minimum of 6 weeks after chest tube removal per The Hospital for Sick Children standard chylothorax treatment protocol.


Daily volume and duration of chest tube drainage were not different between the MBM and MCT groups. While there was no statistically significant difference in rates of weight gain (g/d) between feeding groups, infants in the MBM group, who tended to be younger, experienced a decline in mean weight (P = .04) and length (P = .01) for age z scores.


Fat-modified breast milk resolved chylothorax; however, strategies to address poor growth need to be developed and evaluated in larger trials prior to widespread clinical adoption of this novel treatment.

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