Introduction: Complicated pleural effusions are difficult to manage with conventional strategies. In this study, we review the safety, efficacy, and durability of PleurX catheters (Denver Biomedical, Golden, CO) for managing complicated pleural effusions and describe a patient population who might benefit.
Patients and methods: From July 1999 to February 2003, 63 PleurX catheters were placed in 58 symptomatic patients (an additional five had bilateral catheters) to manage complicated pleural effusions. Patients selected for catheter placement tended to have poor performance status (Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group < or =2) or had failed standard therapies. Of the 63 catheters, 52 (83%) were placed because of malignant complicated pleural effusions. A registry of patients was constructed, and data were obtained from review of medical records. Nonparametric estimates of freedom from reintervention and overall survival were obtained by the Kaplan-Meier method.
Results: Catheter-related complications were noted in four of 58 patients (7%) and included one each of pneumothorax, seroma, empyema, and pain syndrome. Freedom from reintervention for effusion management was 95%. Of the patients, 86% (50 of 58) experienced dyspnea relief. There were no procedure-related mortalities. Catheters remained functional up to 330 days, and four of 63 (6%) required one-time thrombolysis with tissue plasminogen activator.
Conclusions: PleurX catheters are safe, effective, and durable solutions for complicated pleural effusions and seem to provide an attractive alternative for patients who have few other palliative options. We consider the catheters as first-line therapy for these patients.