A prospective, randomised study comparing the efficacy of talc slurry and bleomycin in the treatment of malignant pleural effusions

Acta Clin Belg. 1997;52(5):258-62. doi: 10.1080/17843286.1997.11718587.


In comparative studies with other agents, insufflated talc has been shown to be the most effective agent in achieving chemical pleurodesis in patients with malignant pleural effusions. The objective of this study is to compare the efficacy of talc administered as slurry (5 g in 50 mL saline) via tube thoracostomy with that of bleomycin (1 mg/kg in 50 mL saline) (which is the most effective agent other than talc). In a randomised, prospective comparative study, twenty-six consecutive patients with proven malignant pleural effusions (recurrent after at least two pleuroscenteses) in whom no pleurodesis attempt had yet been made, and who were symptomatic, had a Karnovski index < or = 50, and an expected survival of one year or less, were included. Therapeutic failure was defined as recurrent pleural fluid > or = 50% of initial volume or requiring pleurocentesis. Recurrence rates (25% vs 21.4%, NS), fever (25% vs 35.7%, NS), pain (0% both groups) and survival (3.75 +/- 3 vs 5.82 +/- 7.15 months, NS) did not differ between bleomycin or talc treated patients. There were no major complications (e.g., empyema) or side-effects. In conclusion, talc slurry and bleomycin are equally effective in achieving chemical pleurodesis via thoracostomy in patients with malignant pleural effusions, and the safety profile of both agents is similar. Since talc is substantially less expensive than bleomycin, talc slurry probably represents the agent of choice for chemical tube thoracostomy pleurodesis.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antibiotics, Antineoplastic / administration & dosage*
  • Bleomycin / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insufflation
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pleural Effusion, Malignant / therapy*
  • Pleurodesis / adverse effects
  • Pleurodesis / methods*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Talc / administration & dosage*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Antibiotics, Antineoplastic
  • Bleomycin
  • Talc