Twenty two operations have been performed on 20 patients for the relief of symptoms due to bullous lung disease. Open intubation drainage of the bullae was used in all patients, the technique initially devised by Monaldi for the treatment of intrapulmonary tuberculous abscesses having been modified. Three patients died after surgery. Mortality was associated with low preoperative FEV1 (median 350 ml) and higher preoperative arterial carbon dioxide tension (PaCO2) (median 7.8 kPa). Symptomatic improvement was reported by 16 of the remaining 17 patients and was maintained over a median follow up period of 1.6 years. This was accompanied by objective improvement in lung function with a 22% median improvement in FEV1, an 11% median reduction in total lung capacity, and a 26% median reduction in residual volume. In one patient symptoms were unchanged after surgery. The technique described provides a simple method for decompressing bullae by means of a minimally invasive surgical procedure. It also allows for the treatment of further bullae at a later date by closed intubation under local anaesthetic. It has proved a suitable approach for all but those with the poorest lung function and is now our treatment of choice.
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