Article Abstract

Pleural controversies: indwelling pleural catheter vs. pleurodesis for malignant pleural effusions

Authors: Marc Fortin, Alain Tremblay


Malignant pleural effusions (MPE) are frequent consequences of malignant disease and significantly impair the quality of life (QoL) of patients. There are two main options for the palliation of MPE-related symptoms: obliterating the pleural space by pleurodesis to prevent further fluid reaccumulation, or chronically draining the pleural fluid with an indwelling pleural catheter (IPC). There is controversy as to which approach is superior each having advantages and drawbacks. Pleurodesis offers a higher chance of rapid resolution of the pleural effusion with an intervention that is time limited but at the expense of a more invasive procedure, the need for a hospital stay and a higher need for repeat procedures. IPC offers an outpatient solution which is less invasive but at the cost of prolonged catheter drainages and care in a significant portion of patients who will not achieve pleurodesis. Impact on QoL, symptom relief and costs do not appear to be significantly different between the two options. Treatment of MPE should be tailored to the patient’s functional status, comorbidities, prognosis and personal preferences as well as local expertise. Hybrid approaches using pleurodesis techniques and IPC concomitantly may come into play in the near future to further improve patient care.