WEBINAR REPLAY: "Chest Tube Management in Cardiac Surgery" | ERAS Cardiac Society Webinar in collaboration with CTSNet

Key speakers Marc Gillinov, MD, Jurij M. Kalisnik, MD, and Lenard Conradi, MD discuss the clinical implications of retained blood, current strategies in chest tube management, and the benefits of posterior pericardiotomy.
Webinar moderated by Kevin Lobdell, MD, and Marc Gerdisch, MD.



Retained Blood Syndrome Leads to Impaired Cardiac and Respiratory Recovery

Clog Blog DecemberBleeding is common after heart surgery. Patients with bleeding after heart surgery clearly have worse outcomes. But why?

Theoretically, if a patient is bleeding and the chest tubes adequately drain the blood from around the heart and lungs while coagulation is restored and the blood products replaced, there should not be much impact on outcomes. But this is clearly not the case. For example in a recent study by Chistensen and colleagues, postoperative hemorrhage (measured as chest tube drainage loss) exceeding 200 mL/h in 1 hour or 2 mL/kg for 2 consecutive hours occurring within 6 hours after cardiac surgery is associated with higher 30-day mortality and stroke, mechanical ventilation > 24 hours, ICU stay and re-exploration.1

Some have suggested that the poor outcomes could be a reaction to transfusions. Yet in a study by Dixon and colleagues, the investigators looked at variables including the possibility that drains are inefficient at clearing blood from the chest and how retained blood may compromise cardiac and lung function.2 Using multivariate analysis they found that blood transfusion was not an independent predictor of mortality, while chest tube drainage was, in fact, the strongest independent predictor of mortality. In strong correlation with bleeding they found a reduction in physiologic cardiac and respiratory function, leading them to conclude that retained blood from insufficient chest drainage due to tube occlusion may be the link that explains the poor outcomes. This may be no surprise to many surgeons and nurses, all of whom have seen chest tube failure due to clogging and a majority of whom have seen adverse patient outcomes from clogging.3

This begs the question: Perhaps it’s not what drains that hurts the patient, it’s what does not drain…?

To address this problem, many programs are turning to active clearance protocols to safely and effectively clear chest tubes of clogging in the early hours after heart surgery. Active clearance of chest tubes with PleuraFlow can reduce both effusions and post operative atrial fibrillation. This can improve not only clinical outcomes, but help reduce unreimbursed hospital costs.

What’s your ICU chest tube clearance protocol?


  1. Christensen, M.C., Dziewior, F., Kempel, A., and von Heymann, C. 2012. Increased chest tube drainage is independently associated with adverse outcome after cardiac surgery. J Cardiothorac Vasc Anesth 26:46-51.
  2. Dixon, B., Santamaria, J.D., Reid, D., Collins, M., Rechnitzer, T., Newcomb, A.E., Nixon, I., Yii, M., Rosalion, A., and Campbell, D.J. 2012. The association of blood transfusion with mortality after cardiac surgery: cause or confounding? Transfusion.
  3. Shalli, S., Saeed, D., Fukamachi, K., Gillinov, A.M., Cohn, W.E., Perrault, L.P., and Boyle, E.M. 2009. Chest tube selection in cardiac and thoracic surgery: a survey of chest tube-related complications and their management. J Card Surg 24:503-509.