Parenteral tetracycline, one of the most commonly used agents for producing pleurodesis, is no longer available because of stricter regulations governing the manufacturing process. The objective of this project was to determine whether minocycline, a tetracycline derivative, is an effective sclerosant in an experimental model in rabbits. We also studied the relationship of the dose and the volume injected to the degree of pleurodesis. The following medications were instilled intrapleurally in anesthetized male rabbits: tetracycline, 35 mg/kg; or minocycline, 4, 7, 10, or 20 mg/kg, diluted to a total volume of 1 or 2 ml of bacteriostatic saline solution; or minocycline, 40 mg/kg, diluted to a total volume of 2 ml of the solution. Twenty-eight days after the instillation, the animals were killed. The pleural spaces were assessed grossly for evidence of pleurodesis and microscopically for evidence of fibrosis and inflammation. The degree of pleurodesis grossly and microscopically after the injection of 7, 10, 20, or 40 mg/kg of minocycline was comparable to that after the injection of 35 mg/kg of tetracycline, while the dose of 4 mg/kg was less effective. In the animals who received the higher doses of minocycline intrapleurally (ie > or = 20 mg/kg), there was an excess mortality both early (chi 2 = 3.61, 0.05 < p < 0.10) and late (chi 2 = 11.0, p < 0.005) which appeared to be related to the development of hemothorax. The intrapleural injection of the tetracycline derivatives was significantly (p < 0.05) more effective when the total volume of the solution was 2 ml rather than 1 ml. The present study demonstrates that minocycline is an effective agent for producing pleurodesis in the rabbit. Minocycline given intrapleurally at doses of 7 mg/kg or above is comparable to tetracycline, 35 mg/kg. Higher doses of minocycline (> or = 20 mg/kg) produce a high mortality that seems to be related to hemothorax. Since, in humans, a large experience confirms only 20 mg/kg of tetracycline is needed to produce adequate pleurodesis safely, we recommend a dose of 4 mg/kg of minocycline for the production of pleurodesis.