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Med J Aust. 1991 Apr 1;154(7):455-7, 460.

Pleurectomy for mesothelioma.

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Department of Surgery, Repatriation General Hospital Concord, NSW.



To assess the effectiveness and safety of parietal pleurectomy in establishing a tissue diagnosis and controlling pleural fluid accumulation in patients with pleural mesothelioma, and to assess the success of this procedure in effecting palliation.


Fifty consecutive patients with pleural mesothelioma who underwent thoracotomy at the cardiothoracic units at Concord and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital were reviewed retrospectively. The male:female ratio was 4:1 and the mean age was 63 years. In only 11 of the 50 patients was a tissue diagnosis of mesothelioma made before surgery.


At thoracotomy, subtotal parietal pleurectomy was performed in 45 of the 50 patients. In two patients biopsy alone was performed and three patients were treated by a chemical pleurodesis only, as pleurectomy was not technically possible. Pulmonary decortication was required in 28 patients to allow full expansion of the underlying lung for effective pleurodesis.


There was one postoperative death. The morbidity rate was 16%. Excluding the patient who died in the postoperative period, the median survival was 16 months, and ranged from three to 54 months, with 21% of patients surviving for more than two years. Only one patient developed a reaccumulation of pleural fluid.


Pleurectomy, with decortication when required, provides both a tissue diagnosis and effective control of pleural fluid accumulation and therefore excellent palliation in patients with pleural mesothelioma. We advocate early thoracotomy in these patients.

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