Initial primary spontaneous pneumothorax in children and adolescents: Operate or wait?

Document Type



Paediatric Surgery


Purpose: The management of primary spontaneous pneumothorax (PSP) in the pediatric population is not standardized. The purpose of this study was to understand the management options for a first episode of PSP in children and adolescents, and their associated outcomes.
Methods: A retrospective study was conducted for patients 5-20 years old with a diagnosis of PSP at a large academic children's hospital between 2002 and 2014. Patient data were reviewed for each case. Management and outcomes were analyzed and compared between groups.
Results: Eighty patients met all inclusion criteria. Overall recurrence rate was 40% with 86% occurring within 12 months of the initial PSP. Patients with recurrent PSP were significantly taller. Size of pneumothorax based on initial chest x-ray was comparable between recurrent and nonrecurrent groups. A negative CT scan for subpleural blebs did not predict recurrence. Patients undergoing thoracoscopic blebectomy and mechanical pleurodesis at initial presentation had significantly lower recurrence rate compared to patients who underwent nonoperative management (operative group 14%, nonoperative group 45%; p=0.0373).
Conclusions: Recurrence following nonoperative management was high with the majority occurring within a year and requiring readmission. These findings support offering surgery to families as a potential initial management option.
Level of evidence: 3b/4 - retrospective series or case control study, single institution, very limited population.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.

Publication (Name of Journal)

Journal of Pediatric Surgery