Malignant pleural effusions: a review

Clin Chest Med. 2013 Sep;34(3):459-71. doi: 10.1016/j.ccm.2013.05.004. Epub 2013 Jul 23.


Malignant pleural effusions are a cause of significant symptoms and distress in patients with end-stage malignancies and portend a poor prognosis. Management is aimed at symptom relief, with minimally invasive interventions and minimal requirement for hospital length of stay. The management options include watchful waiting if no symptoms are present, repeat thoracentesis, medical or surgical thoracoscopic techniques to achieve pleurodesis, pleuroperitoneal shunts, placement of tunneled pleural catheters, or a combination of modalities. To determine the best modality for management, patients must be assessed individually with concern for symptoms, functional status, prognosis, and their social and financial situations.

Keywords: End-stage malignancies; Malignant pleural effusions; Management; Review.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Drainage
  • Genetic Therapy
  • Glaucoma Drainage Implants
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Paracentesis
  • Pleural Effusion, Malignant / epidemiology
  • Pleural Effusion, Malignant / physiopathology
  • Pleural Effusion, Malignant / therapy*
  • Pleurodesis* / instrumentation
  • Pleurodesis* / methods
  • Thoracoscopy / instrumentation
  • Thoracoscopy / methods