Postoperative chylothorax may occur following any intrathoracic surgical procedure in children. From January 1979 through February 1987, 18 children aged 1 month to 9 years had chylothorax listed among their discharge diagnoses. Initial therapy for all patients consisted of chest tube placement for pleural space drainage and nutritional support with either enteral formulas enriched with medium-chain triglycerides or total parenteral nutrition. Both total parenteral nutrition and medium-chain triglyceride-enriched enteral regimens provided adequate nutritional support in these children. Five of the 18 experienced lymphopenia secondary to chylous lymphocyte loss. Infections were diagnosed in 5 patients during hospitalization; one was a fatal viral pneumonitis. No correlation between infectious complications and lymphocyte count could be demonstrated.