Pneumothorax Ex-vacuo or " trapped lung" in the setting of hepatic hydrothorax

Yan S. Kim, Irawan Susanto, Catherine A. Lazar, Ali Zarrinpar, Patricia Eshaghian, M. I. Smith, Ronald Busuttil, Tisha S. Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background: Hepatic hydrothorax is a major pulmonary complication of liver disease occurring in up to 5-10% of patients with cirrhosis.Case presentation: We report four observations of the development of pneumothorax ex-vacuo or trapped lung in the setting of hepatic hydrothorax. The diagnosis of trapped lung was made based on the presence of a hydropneumothorax after evacuation of a longstanding hepatic hydrothorax with failure of the lung to re-expand after chest tube placement in three of the four cases. Two patients underwent surgical decortication with one subsequent death from post-operative bleeding. The other two patients remarkably had spontaneous improvement of their " trapped lung" without surgical intervention.Conclusions: While pneumothorax ex-vacuo is a known phenomenon in malignant effusions, to our knowledge, it has never been described in association with hepatic hydrothoraces. The pathophysiology of this phenomenon remains unclear but could be related to chronic inflammation with development of a fibrous layer along the visceral pleura.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number78
JournalBMC Pulmonary Medicine
StatePublished - Dec 17 2012


  • Hepatohydrothorax
  • Pleural effusion
  • Pnumothorax Ex-Vacuo
  • Trapped lung

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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