Thoracoscopic management of malignant pleural effusions

Clin Chest Med. 1995 Sep;16(3):505-18.


Thoracoscopy has been around for decades, advocated by some, but until recently, ignored by many. Not surprisingly, its diagnostic and therapeutic efficacy in patients with suspected or proven malignant pleural effusions has withstood the test of time. Today, the potential benefits of thoracoscopy must be weighed against its cost in patients with limited life expectancy. Although diagnostic thoracoscopy requires only overnight hospitalization, pleurodesis imposes a longer hospital stay. The discomfort of an indwelling chest tube, the need for hospitalization, and the financial burden of thoracoscopic procedures compared with less-invasive means of pleural investigation and pleurodesis must be taken into account on an individual basis. Thoracoscopy should not be performed for the sake of intervention. Its indications and all diagnostic or therapeutic alternatives should always be carefully examined. Its role, however, in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with malignant pleural effusions is undeniable. The diagnostic accuracy of thoracoscopic pleural biopsy is excellent. Several studies demonstrate that thoracoscopic talc pleurodesis is more frequently successful than other methods of pleurodesis. As a staging procedure, thoracoscopy helps determine extent of disease, and possibly, prognosis in patients with metastatic pleural carcinomatosis, lung cancer, and malignant mesothelioma. As this procedure is increasingly rediscovered by our medical and surgical communities, greater clinical and experimental investigation aimed at establishing successful management strategies in patients with malignant pleural effusions will hopefully occur.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy / methods
  • Humans
  • Mesothelioma / therapy
  • Pleura / pathology
  • Pleura / surgery
  • Pleural Effusion, Malignant / diagnosis
  • Pleural Effusion, Malignant / therapy*
  • Pleural Neoplasms / therapy
  • Pleurodesis
  • Talc / administration & dosage
  • Thoracoscopy* / methods


  • Talc