The aim of this prospective, randomized study was to investigate the possibility of performing pleurodesis using a small percutaneous catheter (Cystofix catheter, CH10, 65 cm) inserted at bedside in patients with recurrent malignant pleural effusion and to compare this catheter with a conventional large bore chest tube (CH24) placed in connection with diagnostic thoracoscopy. After drainage pleurodesis was performed with tetracycline as sclerosing agent. Of 18 evaluable consecutive patients (mean age 67.8 years) nine were randomized for pleurodesis with the small and nine for the large catheter. In the former group, the majority (seven of nine) did not find insertion of the catheter more unpleasant than thoracentesis. In the latter group only a few (two of nine) found insertion comparable with thoracentesis (P < 0.05). All patients found the presence of the large catheter very or somewhat unpleasant (two and seven patients), whereas this was only the case for a few (no and two patients) treated with the small catheter (P < 0.05). In the former group three patients required new thoracentesis, whereas this was only the case for two patients in the latter group (P > 0.05). No complications were seen. We conclude that pleurodesis in patients with recurrent malignant pleural effusion can be performed with a small percutaneous catheter (Cystofix) with an effect similar to that obtained with a large-bore chest tube and with less discomfort for the patient.