Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California


UCLA Previously Published Works bannerUCLA

Chylothorax: A Rare Complication of Tube Thoracostomy



Chylothorax resulting from chest tube injury to the thoracic duct is very rare and underreported.


The purpose of this case report is to exemplify this rare but potentially significant complication of chest tube thoracostomy.

Case report

An 86-year-old woman presented with sepsis and a massive right pleural effusion; she developed a chylous effusion with the pleural fluid triglyceride level of 158 mg/dL 2 days after a traumatic chest tube insertion. All investigations excluded common causes of non-traumatic chylothorax. The chylothorax improved after fasting and implementation of a medium-chain triglyceride diet.


The optimal depth of insertion of the chest tube typically ranges from 5 to 15 cm, ensuring all sideports are within the chest and the proximal port is at least 2 cm beyond the rib margin. Traumatic chylothorax secondary to chest tube insertion should be included in the differential diagnosis of patients presenting with chylothorax after a thoracostomy tube.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View