Respiratory failure following talc pleurodesis

Am J Surg. 1999 May;177(5):437-40. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9610(99)00075-6.


Background: Sterile talc is currently the agent of choice for pleurodesis. Its success rate is excellent, and talc is generally well tolerated. However, a recent experience with fulminant pneumonitis following talc pleurodesis prompted a review of our experience.

Methods: A retrospective review of patients undergoing talc pleurodesis at our institution between December 1993 and December 1997 was performed, documenting respiratory and other complications. Statistical analysis was performed using Student's t test and Pearson correlations.

Results: Seventy-eight patients received 89 talc pleurodesis procedures. Respiratory complications or death occurred in 33%; 9% of patients developed adult respiratory distress syndrome. There was no statistical difference in outcomes between patient groups, methods of application, or talc dosages utilized.

Conclusions: This series revealed a significantly higher rate of serious complications than that reported in the current literature, without implicating a clear reason for these outcomes. Our data raise questions about the safety of talc pleurodesis.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pleural Effusion / therapy
  • Pleurodesis / adverse effects*
  • Pneumothorax / therapy
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / etiology*
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / mortality
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / etiology*
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / mortality
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Talc / adverse effects*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Talc