Purpose: Postoperative chylous ascites is a rare complication of retroperitoneal and mediastinal surgery that represents a difficult management problem due to the serious mechanical, nutritional and immunological consequences of the constant loss of protein and lymphocytes. We reviewed the topic of postoperative chylous ascites with special emphasis on the relevant diagnostic and imaging modalities. We propose a novel management algorithm. Materials and Methods: We performed a MEDLINE search of the literature on chylous ascites using chyloperitoneum as the subject heading and chylous ascites as an additional key word. The search yielded 651 articles. We focused on 102 series, collective reviews and mainly case reports related to the issue of postoperative chylous ascites. Results: We propose a novel algorithm based on a step-up approach aimed at promoting decreased lymph production and flow as well as maintaining nutritional balance. The management algorithm integrates repeat palliative paracentesis, dietary measures, total parenteral nutrition therapy, peritoneovenous shunting and surgical closure of the lymphoperitoneal fistula. Due to the remarkable effectiveness of somatostatin therapy for the closure of lymphatic fistula somatostatin therapy should be attempted with or without total parenteral nutrition early in the course of treatment of chylous ascites before any invasive steps are taken. Conclusions: Various management modalities may be used successfully to treat chylous ascites. Therefore, treatment should be individualized and adjusted to the severity of lymphatic leakage and its consequences. The outcome mostly depends on the underlying pathological condition. Thus, in the absence of malignant or congenital underlying pathology the prognosis in cases of postoperative chylous ascites is good with the majority responding to conservative measures.
- Postoperative complications