Context: Malignant pleural effusion causes disabling dyspnea in patients with a short life expectancy. Palliation is achieved by fluid drainage, but the most effective first-line method has not been determined.
Objective: To determine whether indwelling pleural catheters (IPCs) are more effective than chest tube and talc slurry pleurodesis (talc) at relieving dyspnea.
Design: Unblinded randomized controlled trial (Second Therapeutic Intervention in Malignant Effusion Trial [TIME2]) comparing IPC and talc (1:1) for which 106 patients with malignant pleural effusion who had not previously undergone pleurodesis were recruited from 143 patients who were treated at 7 UK hospitals. Patients were screened from April 2007-February 2011 and were followed up for a year.
Intervention: Indwelling pleural catheters were inserted on an outpatient basis, followed by initial large volume drainage, education, and subsequent home drainage. The talc group were admitted for chest tube insertion and talc for slurry pleurodesis.
Main outcome measure: Patients completed daily 100-mm line visual analog scale (VAS) of dyspnea over 42 days after undergoing the intervention (0 mm represents no dyspnea and 100 mm represents maximum dyspnea; 10 mm represents minimum clinically significant difference). Mean difference was analyzed using a mixed-effects linear regression model adjusted for minimization variables.
Results: Dyspnea improved in both groups, with no significant difference in the first 42 days with a mean VAS dyspnea score of 24.7 in the IPC group (95% CI, 19.3-30.1 mm) and 24.4 mm (95% CI, 19.4-29.4 mm) in the talc group, with a difference of 0.16 mm (95% CI, −6.82 to 7.15; P = .96). There was a statistically significant improvement in dyspnea in the IPC group at 6 months, with a mean difference in VAS score between the IPC group and the talc group of −14.0 mm (95% CI, −25.2 to −2.8 mm; P = .01). Length of initial hospitalization was significantly shorter in the IPC group with a median of 0 days (interquartile range [IQR], 0-1 day) and 4 days (IQR, 2-6 days) for the talc group, with a difference of −3.5 days (95% CI, −4.8 to −1.5 days; P < .001). There was no significant difference in quality of life. Twelve patients (22%) in the talc group required further pleural procedures compared with 3 (6%) in the IPC group (odds ratio [OR], 0.21; 95% CI, 0.04-0.86; P = .03). Twenty-one of the 52 patients in the catheter group experienced adverse events vs 7 of 54 in the talc group (OR, 4.70; 95% CI, 1.75-12.60; P = .002).
Conclusion: Among patients with malignant pleural effusion and no previous pleurodesis, there was no significant difference between IPCs and talc pleurodesis at relieving patient-reported dyspnea.
Trial registration: isrctn.org Identifier: ISRCTN87514420.