Background: Acute, massive, unilateral hydrothorax is an uncommon but well-recognized complication of peritoneal dialysis. Its clinical course and treatment outcome after a recently advocated technique of video-assisted thoracoscopic (VATS) talc pleurodesis remains unclear.
Methods and results: Between July 1998 and March 2002, among 475 CAPD patients in two regional hospitals in Hong Kong, nine patients (three men, six women, mean age 53+/-12 years) developed acute hydrothorax due to pleuroperitoneal communication (R=8, L=1) within 5.8+/-4.2 months (median, 5.2 m; range, 2 days to 11.6 months) of commencing peritoneal dialysis. Analysis of simultaneously obtained peritoneal and pleural fluid in all subjects only showed concordance in protein content (consistently<4 g/l), while fluid glucose and lactate dehydrogenase levels were not comparable. The methylene blue test was negative (n=4). Radionuclide scan (n=6) and contrast CT peritoneography (CTP, n=3) detected pleuroperitoneal communication in half and one-third of the patients, respectively. All patients underwent pleurodesis achieved by talc insufflation into the pleural cavity under VATS guidance. All patients were successfully returned to peritoneal dialysis. After a mean follow-up of 18.8+/-12.5 months, hydrothorax recurred in one patient (at 7 months after pleurodesis), who was successfully treated by repeating the procedure.
Conclusions: Hydrothorax complicating CAPD is more commonly right-sided, and tends to occur within the first year of starting peritoneal dialysis. Isotope scan and CTP are insensitive in diagnosing pleuroperitoneal communication. A low pleural fluid protein content is the most consistent biochemical finding. VATS talc pleurodesis is a safe and reliable treatment of choice that allows sustained continuation of CAPD with low recurrence rate.