Thoracoscopic talc versus tunneled pleural catheters for palliation of malignant pleural effusions

Ann Thorac Surg. 2012 Oct;94(4):1053-7; discussion 1057-9. doi: 10.1016/j.athoracsur.2012.01.103. Epub 2012 Apr 17.


Background: A malignant pleural effusion (MPE) is a late complication of malignancy that affects respiratory function and quality of life. A strategy for palliation of the symptoms caused by MPE should permanently control fluid accumulation, preclude any need for reintervention, and limit hospital length of stay (LOS). We compared video-assisted thorascopic (VATS) talc insufflation with placement of a tunneled pleural catheter (TPC) to assess which intervention better met these palliative goals.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective chart review of consecutive MPE at a single institution from 2005 through June 2011. Primary a priori outcomes were reintervention in the ipsilateral hemithorax, postprocedure LOS, and overall LOS.

Results: One hundred nine patients with MPE were identified. Fifty-nine patients (54%) had TPC placed, and 50 (46%) were treated with VATS talc. Patients who underwent TPC placement had significantly fewer reinterventions for recurrent ipsilateral effusions than patients treated with VATS talc (TPC 2% [1 of 59], talc 16% [8 of 50], p=0.01). Patients treated with TPC had significantly shorter overall LOS (TPC LOS mean 7 days, mode 1 day; talc mean 8 day, mode 4 days, p=0.006) and postprocedure LOS (TPC post-procedure LOS mean 3 days, mode 0 days; talc mean 6 days, mode 3 days, p<0.001). Type of procedure was not associated with differences in complication rate (TPC 5% [3 of 59], talc 14% [7 of 50], p=0.18), or in-hospital mortality (TPC 3% [2 of 59], talc 8% [4 of 50], p=0.41).

Conclusions: TPC placement was associated with a significantly reduced postprocedure and overall LOS compared with VATS talc. Also, TPC placement was associated with significantly fewer ipsilateral reinterventions. Placement of TPC should be considered for palliation of MPE-associated symptoms.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Catheters*
  • Drainage / instrumentation*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hospital Mortality / trends
  • Humans
  • Insufflation / methods*
  • Length of Stay / trends
  • Male
  • Palliative Care / methods*
  • Pleural Effusion, Malignant / diagnosis
  • Pleural Effusion, Malignant / mortality
  • Pleural Effusion, Malignant / therapy*
  • Pleurodesis / methods*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Survival Rate / trends
  • Talc / administration & dosage*
  • Thoracic Surgery, Video-Assisted / methods
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Washington / epidemiology


  • Talc