Medical thoracoscopy

Curr Opin Pulm Med. 2009 Jul;15(4):313-20. doi: 10.1097/MCP.0b013e32832b8b2d.


Purpose of review: The technique and clinical applications of medical thoracoscopy have substantially evolved in the last few decades. The recent development of a semirigid thoracoscope, which is handled similarly to a bronchoscope, has made this procedure more attractive to pulmonologists. We will review the latest data on clinical applications, recently developed techniques, and safety of medical thoracoscopy, focusing mainly on its role in thoracic malignancies.

Recent findings: Recent data confirm the high diagnostic yield of medical thoracoscopy - both with rigid and semirigid instruments - in detecting pleural metastases and determining the origin of pleural effusions. The degree of pleural adhesions found during thoracoscopy has been proposed by some authors as a prognostic factor for survival in patients with malignant pleural effusion. A large prospective multicenter study has established the safety of talc poudrage with large-particle talc, showing no cases of acute respiratory distress syndrome.

Summary: Medical thoracoscopy is an excellent tool to establish diagnosis in patients with exudative pleural effusion of unclear origin. It is highly valuable in clarifying the origin of pleural effusions in patients with lung cancer, as the presence of a malignant pleural effusion is associated with poor survival and precludes the possibility of treatment with curative intention. Pleurodesis with talc poudrage is efficacious and well tolerated, especially with the use of large-particle talc.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Pleural Effusion / diagnosis
  • Pleural Effusion, Malignant / diagnosis
  • Pleurodesis / instrumentation
  • Pleurodesis / methods
  • Pleurodesis / trends
  • Prognosis
  • Thoracic Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Thoracoscopes / trends*
  • Thoracoscopy / methods*
  • Thoracoscopy / trends*