BACKGROUND: The time required for air leak resolution after chest trauma is not well described. Based on an institutional review of posttraumatic air leaks our hypothesis was that video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) for persistent posttraumatic air leak would decrease chest tube days and length of stay compared with nonoperative management. METHODS: Patients were offered VATS versus nonoperative management when air leaks persisted longer than 3 days and the patients were otherwise ready for discharge. Chest tube days and length of stay were recorded. RESULTS: Of 223 trauma patients requiring chest tubes, 50 had persistent air leaks, 39 of whom were otherwise ready for discharge. Twenty-five chose VATS and 14 nonoperative (NOP) treatment. The mean chest tube days was 8.1 for VATS versus 11.8 for NOP (P = 0.001). Mean length of stay was 9.7 days for VATS and 16.5 days for NOP (P = 0.002). CONCLUSIONS: In patients otherwise ready for discharge VATS reduces chest tube days and length of stay when used to treat persistent posttraumatic air leak.
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