Octreotide for treatment of chylothorax in newborns

Collection of lymphatic fluid in the chest cavity is called chylothorax. Routine management of this condition involves treatment of the underlying condition, draining of fluid, putting a tube in the chest wall until all the fluid is drained and rarely surgery. Octreotide is a drug that may reduce the production and accumulation of fluid and allow babies to recover faster. No trials have evaluated the safety and efficacy of this drug in babies and only case reports are available. Future studies are needed.

Authors' conclusions: 

No practice recommendation can be made based on the evidence identified in this review. A prospective registry of chylothorax patients and a subsequent multicenter randomised controlled trial are needed to assess the safety and efficacy of octreotide in the treatment of chylothorax in neonates.

Read the full abstract...

Routine care for chylothorax in neonate includes either conservative or surgical approaches. Octreotide, a somatostatin analogue, has been used for the management of patients with refractory chylothorax not responding to conservative management.


To assess the efficacy and safety of octreotide in the treatment of chylothorax in neonates.

Search strategy: 

We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library), MEDLINE and EMBASE (to March 7, 2010). We assessed the reference lists of identified trials and abstracts from the annual meetings of the Pediatric Academic Societies published in Pediatric Research (2002 to 2009) without language restrictions.

Selection criteria: 

We planned to include randomised or quasi-randomised controlled trials of octreotide in the treatment of congenital or acquired chylothorax in term or preterm neonates, with any dose, duration or route of administration.

Data collection and analysis: 

Data on primary (amount of fluid drainage, respiratory support, mortality) and secondary outcomes (side effects) were planned to be collected and analysed using mean difference, relative risk and risk difference with 95% confidence intervals.

Main results: 

No randomised controlled trials were identified. Nineteen case reports of 20 neonates with chylothorax in whom octreotide was used either subcutaneously or intravenously were identified. Fourteen case reports described successful use (resolution of chylothorax), four reported failure (no resolution) and one reported equivocal results following use of octreotide. The timing of initiation, dose, duration and frequency of doses varied markedly. Gastrointestinal intolerance and clinical presentations suggestive of necrotizing enterocolitis and transient hypothyroidism were reported as side effects.