From the Journals

Time to reexamine surgery for nonlocalized bronchiectasis


Key clinical point: Lobectomy for nonlocalized bronchiectasis can improve symptoms significantly.

Major finding: Among 37 patients who had lobectomy, 62.2% were asymptomatic after surgery.

Data source: Single-center retrospective review of 37 patients who had lobectomy for nonlocalized bronchiectasis from January 2010 to December 2013.

Disclosure: Dr. Dai and his coauthors had no financial relationships to disclose.

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‘Important contribution,’ but ...

The study by Dr. Dai and his coauthors “is an important contribution to the literature” despite its limitations, Steven Milman, MD, and Thomas Ng, MD, of Brown University, Providence, R.I., said in their invited commentary (J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2017 Apr;153:986). However, they added, “Several important points need to be stressed.”

Among those points: The researchers studied a “highly selected group” of young patients with good pulmonary functions; mean follow-up was short (15 months); the etiology of bronchiectasis was unknown; and lobectomy was not the optimal treatment for nonlocalized bronchiectasis. “It must be remembered that these patients first failed medical therapy and that the study population received lobectomy due to the extent of the dominant disease and not as routine treatment,” Dr. Milman and Dr. Ng wrote.

To validate the findings, Dr. Milman and Dr. Ng said, not only do more patients need to be studied with longer follow-up but future investigators also should study minimally invasive approaches to see if that would improve the outcomes.

Dr. Milman and Dr. Ng had no financial relationships to disclose.



Nonlocalized bronchiectasis is becoming more common in developing countries and has been difficult to treat. While surgery for localized bronchiectasis has been proven, its role in nonlocalized disease is less established; researchers from China are advocating for a reexamination of surgical resection in this disease based on results of a small cohort study at their academic center.

“Lobectomy for the predominant lesion is a safe procedure in the surgical treatment of nonlocalized bronchiectasis and leads to significant relief of symptoms with good rates of satisfaction,” Jie Dai, PhD, of Shanghai (China) Pulmonary Hospital Tongji University and his coauthors reported in the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery (2017 Apr;153:979-85).

The researchers reviewed the medical records of 37 consecutive patients – 10 men and 27 women – with nonlocalized bronchiectasis who had lobectomies via thoracotomies during 2010-2013. Twenty-three patients (62.2%) were symptom free after surgery and 10 (27%) reported that their symptoms had improved. Four (10.8%) said their symptoms either did not improve or worsened, but three of them also had chronic occlusive pulmonary disease. There were no deaths, and the morbidity rate was 21.6%.

The researchers used three criteria to select candidates for surgery: persistent symptoms despite medical treatment; an identifiable predominant lesion; and cardiopulmonary function compatible with anesthetic risk. Average age was 54.5 years and more than half (19) had no smoking history.

The surgical technique involved a posterolateral thoracotomy and a double-lumen endotracheal tube to avoid contamination of the opposite side of the lung during surgery. Surgery avoided excessive bronchial dissection and preserved peribronchial tissues. Extrapleural dissection avoided spillage of lung contents into the pleural space.

Treatment of the hilum followed an order from the pulmonary artery to the pulmonary vein and then to the bronchus. An ultrasonic device helped isolate and then ligate or sever distorted bronchial arteries. A mechanical stapler was used to close the bronchial stump. Reinforcement involved an intercostal muscle flap in 16 cases and a pedicled parietal pleural flap in 21. If any sign of pleural infection appeared after hemostasis, pleural space irrigation with 0.5% neomycin (500 mg/L) was initiated. Two chest drains were placed at the bronchial stump, and the bronchial suture checked with bronchoscopy. Airway secretions were removed, and pathology confirmed bronchiectasis all specimens.

The frequency of acute infection and hemoptysis decreased significantly at 1 year postoperatively, from 5.3% to 1.8% and 4.9% to 1.1%, respectively, (P less than .01 for both). Daily sputum volume decreased an average of 26.3 mL (P less than .01) and sputum cultures became sterile in 13 (35%) of patients (P less than .01).

Previously, surgery for nonlocalized bronchiectasis had been reserved for life-threatening symptoms only, but Dr. Dai and his coauthors fashioned their study on previous studies of lobectomy that included patients with nonlocalized bronchiectasis (Br J Surg. 2005;92:836-9; Ann Thorac Surg. 2003;75:382-7).

Two major complications occurred in the Shanghai cohort: empyema and persistent air leak, both of which were managed without a reoperation and had been reported in previous series. Dr. Dai and his coauthors have adopted protocols to reduce complications, among them, requiring that patients have sputum output greater than 20 mL/day with little purulence and no engorgement or edema in the tunica mucosa bronchiorum on bronchoscopy.

But the researchers are not ready to extend surgery as a blanket indication for nonlocalized bronchiectasis. “It is worth mentioning that the surgical benefit is limited to patients who have only one predominant area of bronchiectatic disease that can be localized by CT instead of those with diffuse bronchiectasis,” they wrote. “The ideal surgical candidate has a heterogeneous distribution of diseased areas.”

The investigators pointed out that the study was limited by its small size and lack of information on etiologies of disease.

Dr. Dai and his coauthors had no financial relationships to disclose.

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