Objective: Differing success rates of various pleurodesis agents have been reported in the management of malignant pleural effusions. A randomized clinical trial was conducted to compare the efficacy of two commonly used agents, talc and bleomycin, for the pleurodesis of malignant pleural effusions.
Methodology: Inclusion in the study required proof of a malignant pleural effusion by fluid cytology or pleural biopsy. Exclusion criteria included trapped lung, loculated effusions, recurrent effusions and life expectancy < 1 month. Five grams of talc or 1 unit per kilogram bodyweight of bleomycin mixed in 150 mL of normal saline was administered via tube thoracostomy after complete drainage of the pleural effusion in each patient. Treatment success was defined as the absence of recurrent pleural effusion on the chest radiograph 1 month after pleurodesis.
Results: Treatment success was achieved in 16 out of 18 patients (89%) in the talc slurry group versus 14 out of 20 patients (70%) in the bleomycin group (P=0.168). Fever and pain were the only side-effects of pleurodesis in both groups.
Conclusion: These results indicate that talc slurry is as effective as bleomycin in preventing early recurrence of malignant pleural effusions. Pleurodesis with talc instead of bleomycin can result in significant cost savings.