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Keywords:

  • indwelling pleural catheters;
  • malignant pleural effusion;
  • pleurodesis;
  • talc;
  • thoracoscopy

ABSTRACT

Malignant pleural effusions (MPE) are a common complication of advanced malignancy. The treatment of MPE should be focused on palliation of associated symptoms. The traditional approach to MPE has been to attempt pleurodesis by introducing a sclerosant into the pleural space. A more recent development in the treatment of MPE has been the use of indwelling pleural catheters (IPC) for ongoing drainage of the pleural space. Controversy exists as to which approach is superior. Pleurodesis approaches will have the advantage of a time-limited course of treatment and high pleurodesis rate at the cost of a more invasive procedure requiring a general anaesthetic or conscious sedation (for thoracoscopic approaches) and an inpatient hospital stay. Use of IPC will allow the patient to be treated on an outpatient basis with a minimally invasive procedure, at the cost of long-term need for catheter drainage and care. Symptom control appears similar between techniques. Complication rates between the two approaches cannot be easily compared, but studies suggest more frequent severe complications such as respiratory failure, arrhythmias and even mortality following pleurodesis, with infection rates similar between the two approaches. IPC will likely see increasing utilization in the future but patient preference and local resources and expertise will continue to play a significant part in treatment decisions. Randomized trials directly comparing the two approaches are needed and some are underway. Novel combination approaches utilizing both IPC and pleurodesis agents have the potential to further improve the care of these patients.