Objective: Over the last 15 years we have managed patients with malignant pleural effusion, using a single procedure with thoracoscopy and talc pleurodesis or shunt as appropriate. Talc pleurodesis remains our primary treatment option but in those patient shown to have the 'trapped lung syndrome', in whom pleurodesis would fail, we have been using a pleuroperitoneal shunt.
Methods: This retrospective review was undertaken to evaluate the mortality and morbidity of pleuroperitoneal shunts in the management of malignant pleural effusions and to assess their long-term results. Three hundred and sixty patients were treated for malignant effusions during the period 1983-1998, 160 (44.4%) of whom had a pleuroperitoneal shunt inserted. There were no intraoperative deaths and the hospital mortality was three patients (1.87%). Follow up was available for 88.1% of patients. The median survival of all malignant cases was 7.7 months (range 1-72 months). Mesothelioma patients survived somewhat longer with a median survival of 10.1 months.
Results: Shunt complication occurred in 21 patients (14.8%). Twelve patients developed shunt occlusion, requiring revision in five and replacement in seven. The shunt was removed in eight patients due to skin erosion in one patient and infection in seven patients. The distal limb of shunt was broken in one patient and the shunt was replaced. One patient developed malignant seeding along the chest wall at the site of shunt insertion but there were no incidences of peritoneal deposits. Effective palliation was achieved in 95% of patients.
Conclusions: Pleuroperitoneal shunt insertion provides effective and safe palliation for malignant pleural effusion when associated with the 'trapped lung syndrome'. There are however complications which require revision or shunt removal. There is no evidence that peritoneal deposits result from pleuroperitoneal shunting.