Background: Malignant pleural effusions (MPEs) can produce significant respiratory symptoms and diminished quality of life in patients with terminal malignancies. Control of MPEs to palliate respiratory symptoms can be performed via several different approaches. Ideally, a minimally invasive procedure to control MPEs and to provide relief of respiratory symptoms would be optimal.
Objective: To ascertain if control of MPEs can be achieved by outpatient management via a small-bore pleural catheter (PC) without the need for sclerosing agents.
Methods: Retrospective chart analysis of 24 patients after outpatient insertion of PCs for recurrent, symptomatic MPEs followed by frequent home drainage of pleural fluid to relieve respiratory symptoms.
Results: Symptomatic relief of respiratory symptoms was achieved in 100% of patients, while pleurodesis was achieved in 58% of patients in a mean of 39 days. Five patients (6 PCs) expired with the catheters in place. In these patients, all catheters remained in position and functional until the patients ultimately died from nonpleural disease progression. No major complications occurred during insertion of the catheter. Late complications included localized cellulitis and bacterial superinfection in three patients and tumor growth at the catheter site in one patient.
Conclusions: The PCs used in the present study provided an effective modality not only to alleviate respiratory symptoms associated with MPE, but also to achieve pleurodesis in 58% of our patients. These catheters may provide a significantly less invasive outpatient approach to the palliative management of MPEs.