Recurrent pleural effusion: who benefits from a tunneled pleural catheter?

Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2009 Feb;57(1):42-6. doi: 10.1055/s-2008-1039109. Epub 2009 Jan 23.


Recurrent malignant pleural effusion (MPE) is a common concomitant phenomenon of malignant disease, which can worsen the patient's quality of life and lead to significant morbidity. Tunneled indwelling pleural catheters (TIPC) offer new modalities in patients with recurrent MPE and impaired dilatability of the lung. We report on our experience with 100 consecutive patients suffering from recurrent benign (n = 12) and malignant pleural effusion (n = 88) who were treated with TIPC. The catheter was placed during a VATS procedure or under local anesthesia in an open technique. The median residence time of the TIPC was 70 days; spontaneous pleurodesis was achieved in 29 patients. The rate of complications was low: pleura empyema (n = 4), accidental dislodgement (n = 2), malfunction of the drainage (n = 3). In conclusion, TIPC is a useful method for the palliative treatment of patients with recurrent malignant or nonmalignant pleural effusions and 3 groups of patients seem to benefit most: a) patients with the intraoperative finding of a trapped lung in diagnostic VATS procedure; b) patients after a history of repeated pleuracenteses or previously failed attempts at pleurodesis; c) patients in a reduced condition with a limited lifespan due to underlying disease.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anesthesia, Local
  • Catheterization / adverse effects
  • Catheterization / instrumentation*
  • Catheters, Indwelling*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Palliative Care
  • Patient Selection*
  • Pleural Effusion / etiology
  • Pleural Effusion / mortality
  • Pleural Effusion / therapy*
  • Pleural Effusion, Malignant / etiology
  • Pleural Effusion, Malignant / mortality
  • Pleural Effusion, Malignant / therapy*
  • Recurrence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Thoracic Surgery, Video-Assisted
  • Time Factors