A rare disorder causes fluid accumulation in the chest. Learn how to recognize and treat this condition.

Posted: Tue Dec 17 00:00:00 PST 2002

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Chylothorax is an accumulation of fluid containing triglycerides in the chest. This rare but complex disorder may have any of a number of causes: malignancy, fungal infections, heartworm disease, heart disease and birth defects of the lymphatic system. Trauma may also be involved. Many cases never have an actual diagnosis; these are called idiopathic chylothorax.

A number of highly sophisticated therapies exist. Surgical tying of the thoracic duct bring chyle, the fluid involved, through the thorax. Surgical placement of various types of drainage mechanisms or shunts have been used as well, such as a pleuroperitoneal shunt. According to the literature, surgical ligation of the thoracic duct in idiopathic cases has the highest rate of success, but treatment failures are common.

Frequent aspiration of the chylous exudate from the chest by syringe or pump is the most common approach in private practice. The current adjunctive therapy is to use rutin, a metapyrone compound available in health food stores. It is being tried in humans with chronic edema (fluid accumulation) in their limbs. It is supposed to increase the action of macrophages (cells that engulf material) and allow absorption of edema fluid. Alice M. Wolf, DVM, one of the best veterinary specialists in the country, is trying 250 milligrams of rutin three times daily since no established dose exists.

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Reader Comments

Daisy    Monterey, CA

12/11/2012 7:13:20 PM

My 4 year old short hair was diagnosed with this a little over a week ago and we (the hubby and I) are devastated.. There really is no actual cure is there? We immediately started him on 500 mg of Rutin once a day and the pills ARE HUGE so what I do is cut it in two and I use a pill popper my local vet gave me and it seems to the work. He doesn't like it much but I hold him like a baby and the hubby opens his mouth and pops the pill in as far back as he can so my cat swallows it right away. It's too bad I can't attach a picture of the device so you can keep an eye out for it. Maybe ask your vet for one. Anyway, I hope my Lugosi is one of the lucky ones who survives this terrible disease. Can anyone share any insight on what can increase his chances of survival? He's all healthy except for this cavity that won't heal.

Colleen    Tacoma, WA

10/19/2012 5:30:56 PM

Our cat Tux (about 7 years old) was just diagnosed with this. The vet says he believes that his thoracic duct has ruptured :( Tux came to us as a feral cat about 3 years ago. He already has congestive heart failure, which is being controlled with pills. He had edema once, about a year or so ago. Vet says that he could have surgery to the tune of 2-4K dollars, which he said that none of his patients have opted for or he can come in weekly to have the fluid drained. He said that scar tissue eventually builds up and that the fluid will no longer be able to be drained. He also recommended 500mg of rutin 2x a day. We travel a lot and my sister ends up taking care of our 2 cats. I am worried about her having to give Tux so many pills at varying times of day, as she has to work, and because Tux hides under the bed when she comes to feed him.

Have you really had to bring your cat in once a week?

Amanda    Cusco, OH

10/1/2012 8:25:45 PM

10/01/12. My cat, Georgia, age 8 approximately was recently diagnosed. With this disease. There were no indications from blood work or x Rays etc. that she has heart disease of cancer. She hates pills and wet foods. In order to give her the recommended 500mgs of Rutin each day, I have been grinding up three 500mg tablets using a mortar and pestal, then I wet the powder with a few drops of water so that it becomes pastey. I take about a half cup of her dry food and mix the paste all over her kibbles and let it dry. So far so good. The vitamin brand that I am using is Solgar, and there is very little taste to the pills. Best wishes to all of you who are going through this with you loving pets.

Jodi    West Hills, CA

12/22/2011 11:04:30 AM

Linda, go back to comment from John on 5/18/10 - he found rutin in powder form at Whole Foods - Bluebonnet capsules. He mixed powder with water and squirted into mouth, but if your cat is a good eater you could mix it with wet food. Good luck! I think my kitty Winston has this. We are waiting for the fluid report.

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