On the Possible Role of Positive End-Expiratory Pressure Ventilation in the Treatment of Chylothorax Caused by Blunt Chest Trauma

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Recent reports on the treatment of chylothorax postulate a benefit to ventilator therapy, especially using positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP). This report describes the use of mechanical ventilation with PEEP in the management of a 24-year-old male motorcyclist who sustained a ligamentous Chance fracture of the thoracic spine at the T6-7 level with bilateral traumatic chylothorax. Treatment of the chylothorax consisted of high PEEP ventilation, bilateral chest tube thoracostomies, and total parenteral nutrition. The chylothoraces resolved within 4 days of treatment and mechanical ventilation was stopped. Ventilator therapy of traumatic chylothorax and the physiologic grounds for its use are discussed. A review of the literature and experimental evidence seem to suggest that ventilator treatment of traumatic chylothoraces is effective.

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