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Year : 2015  |  Volume : 59  |  Issue : 5  |  Page : 328-330  

Massive hydrothorax following supracostal percutaneous nephrolithotomy

Department of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care, Vardhman Mahavir Medical College and Safdarjang Hospital, New Delhi, India

Date of Web Publication12-May-2015

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Smita Prakash
C-17, HUDCO Place, New Delhi -110 049
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0019-5049.156898

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How to cite this article:
Prakash S, Virmani P, Gupta P, Pawar M. Massive hydrothorax following supracostal percutaneous nephrolithotomy. Indian J Anaesth 2015;59:328-30

How to cite this URL:
Prakash S, Virmani P, Gupta P, Pawar M. Massive hydrothorax following supracostal percutaneous nephrolithotomy. Indian J Anaesth [serial online] 2015 [cited 2021 Mar 8];59:328-30. Available from: https://www.ijaweb.org/text.asp?2015/59/5/328/156898


Percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL) is used commonly for the treatment of large renal and upper ureteric calculi. We report a 30-year-old female who developed a massive hydrothorax diagnosed postoperatively following PCNL for left renal calculus. Standard anaesthesia with controlled ventilation was administered. PCNL was performed in the prone position with a left supracostal (between 11 th and 12 th rib) approach. Multiple attempts were required to reach the superior calyx. Intraoperatively the patient remained haemodynamically stable. The procedure lasted 120 min; blood loss was ≈ 400 mL. Following extubation the patient was comfortable and haemodynamically stable with oxygen saturation (SpO 2 ) 98% on 40% oxygen. After 30 min, the patient complained of breathing difficulty. She was tachypnoeic, with SpO 2 84% (O 2 5 L/min). Air entry was absent in left hemithorax, with dullness on percussion. Chest radiograph revealed left hydrothorax [Figure 1]a. An intercostal chest drain with underwater seal was inserted in the left 5 th intercostal space. Haemorrhagic fluid (850 mL) was drained. Patient experienced difficulty in breathing following rapid pleural decompression. Continuous positive airway pressure was given by face mask with 100% oxygen for 20 min. Thereafter, she was asymptomatic, SpO 2 was 100% and arterial blood gas analysis was normal. Repeat chest radiograph 24 h later showed lung expansion [Figure 1]b. The drain was removed on the 3 rd postoperative day. The patient was discharged on the 6 th postoperative day.
Figure 1: Postoperative chest radiograph showing (a) opacity of left hemithorax and (b) re-expansion of the lung at 24 h

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Anaesthetic challenges during PCNL include the potential for fluid absorption, dilutional anaemia, hypothermia, blood loss, injury to adjacent organs and pleural space violation. [1],[2] The renal calyceal system can be accessed via a subcostal or supracostal route. The supracostal access (above the 12 th or 11 th rib) is commonly used as it provides direct access to the upper, middle and lower calyx and the upper ureter. [2] However, this approach can potentially damage the lung and pleura resulting in hydrothorax, pneumothorax or hydropneumothorax. [1]

Pleural injury can be avoided by supracostal puncture over the most lateral portion of the 12 th rib as this portion of the diaphragm is not covered by a pleural reflection. [3] The intercostal puncture is made in the lower half of the intercostal space to avoid injury to intercostal vessels. [4] The supracostal approach requires coordination with the anaesthesiologist to control ventilation. The needle is passed through the retro-peritoneum and diaphragm during complete exhalation to prevent injury to the lung. The passage of the needle through the renal parenchyma to the collecting system is done during deep inspiration (the kidney gets displaced downwards). An Amplatz sheath is used to maintain low-pressure irrigation that can reduce the risk of pleural effusion and extravasation. [4]

Reasons for development of hydrothorax are three-fold: (a) Inadvertent entry into the pleura; (b) inadequate tamponade of the nephrostomy tract combined with inadequate drainage of the kidney after the puncture; and (c) failure to seal the tract with a working sheath during stone removal. [5]

Hydrothorax and pneumothorax can be difficult to identify during PCNL. Intraoperatively, a decrease in SpO 2 and a significant increase of airway pressure is suggestive of hydrothorax. The diagnosis can be confirmed with a chest radiograph; with the patient in the prone position, fluid can be seen tracking along the lateral borders of the chest cavity and compressing the ipsilateral lung. [3] In the immediate postoperative period, pleural injury presents clinically with poor SpO 2 , dyspnoea and tachypnoea. [4] A postoperative chest X-ray is mandatory. The treatment of hydrothorax depends on patient symptoms and its extent. [4] Patients with no or mild symptoms and minimal effusion are managed conservatively; those with significant symptoms and large pleural effusion need intercostal drainage.

Re-expansion pulmonary oedema, an uncommon complication following drainage of a pneumothorax or pleural effusion, presents clinically as cough, chest discomfort and hypoxemia. Risk factors include young age, long duration of lung collapse and rapid re-expansion. Treatment is largely supportive (oxygen supplementation, noninvasive and invasive ventilation).

A high index of suspicion should be maintained when PCNL is performed with a prolonged operating time, multiple tracts and supracostal access. The access puncture should be performed in complete lung deflation and ventilator stand-still in coordination with the anaesthesiologist to minimise the risk of pleural injury. A chest X-ray should be performed promptly in symptomatic postoperative patients to exclude intrathoracic injury. Hydrothorax, haemothorax and/or pneumothorax sustained during PCNL may necessitate chest tube placement.

   References Top

Taylor E, Miller J, Chi T, Stoller ML. Complications associated with percutaneous nephrolithotomy. Transl Androl Urol 2012;1:223-8.  Back to cited text no. 1
Kumar A, Vemuri NN, Misra KC, Sinha S. Haemothorax following percutaneous nephrolithotomy for complete staghorn calculus. Int J Perioper Ultrasound Appl Technol 2012;1:32-4.  Back to cited text no. 2
Gupta B, Roy D, Chandralekha. Massive hydrothorax following percutaneous nephrolithotomy. Update Anaesth 2010;26:46-7.  Back to cited text no. 3
Jun-Ou J, Lojanapiwat B. Supracostal access: Does it affect tubeless percutaneous nephrolithotomy efficacy and safety? Int Braz J Urol 2010;36:171-6.  Back to cited text no. 4
Hossain M, Ullah AT, Regmi S, Rahman H, Kibria SA. Safety and efficacy of the supracostal access for percutaneous nephrolithotomy: Our initial experience. Bangladesh Med Res Counc Bull 2011;37:34-8.  Back to cited text no. 5


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