Background: During the Belgian Surgical Week in May 2004 some controversy existed on the optimal treatment of spontaneous pneumothorax. Doubts raised about the safety of talc in performing pleurodesis because of reported complications.
Methods: A retrospective analysis of a consecutive series of thoracoscopic pleurodesis with talc was performed. Patients operated for spontaneous pneumothorax were analysed focusing on complications and freedom of recurrence. A literature search was performed on complications from the use of talc to treat pleural disease.
Results: From September 1999 till August 2004 forty-one patients had a thoracoscopic pleurodesis with talc. In 21 patients this was performed for recurrent malignant pleural effusion and in 20 for spontaneous pneumothorax. In 5 of these 20 patients we faced a secondary spontaneous pneumothorax. In seven patients an apical pulmonary wedge resection of bullae was performed. No intra-operative or serious postoperative complications were seen in these patients. All drains were removed after 4 to 6 days. No episodes of respiratory insufficiency occurred. No recurrence was encountered during a mean follow-up of 22.7 months.
Conclusion: Thoracoscopic talc pleurodesis for spontaneous pneumothorax was effective and safe in our experience. In the literature no convincing evidence against the use of talc to treat pleural disease was found. Although some cases of ARDS are attributed to the pleural administration of talc, the incidence of complications after talc poudrage appears to be low.