Bronchopleural fistula and the role of contemporary imaging

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Abstract

One of the most morbid postoperative complications after a lobectomy or a pneumonectomy is a bronchopleural fistula (BPF). The diagnosis and identification of BPF may be challenging, often requiring repeat imaging and invasive tests, including bronchoscopy, thoracoscopic exploration, or even open exploration. The purpose of this article is to review the types and presentations of BPF and to describe the role of noninvasive imaging for diagnosis and surgical treatment planning. We focused on multidetector computed tomography and advanced postprocessing applications such as multiplanar reconstructions, virtual bronchoscopy, and volume rendering images, including minimum-intensity and maximum-intensity projections. Both multidetector computed tomography and nuclear scintigraphy are reliable noninvasive imaging modalities that can be used expeditiously in an outpatient setting and may prove to be a more cost-effective strategy to identify the fistula as well as conduct postoperative surveillance. These modalities can be used for accurate and efficient testing for earlier diagnosis and treatment planning, thereby significantly improving patient outcome. Additional advanced postprocessing techniques using already acquired imaging data can provide complementary information that is both visually accessible and anatomically meaningful for the surgeon. Better understanding of the potential uses and benefits of these techniques will eventually improve the diagnostic accuracy, optimize preoperative planning, and facilitate follow-up for patients with BPF with improved patient outcomes.

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