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Ann Surg Oncol. 2009 Dec;16(12):3482-7. doi: 10.1245/s10434-009-0691-2. Epub 2009 Sep 24.

Ambulatory intercostal drainage for the management of malignant pleural effusion: a single center experience.

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South West Cardiothoracic Centre, Derriford Hospital, Plymouth, UK.



Malignant pleural effusions are common and can be difficult to manage. We have reviewed our use of ambulatory drains (Pleurex drains) in this regard with particular reference to hospital stay, duration of drainage, and incidence of complications.


Of 125 patients with malignant pleural effusion with trapped lung or failed previous pleurodesis who underwent insertion of ambulatory pleural drain, 41 patients were under local anesthesia and 84 patients were under general anesthesia. Mean age was 66.5 years with male:female = 80:45. Data were collected retrospectively from the clinical notes, and the family doctors' clinics were contacted to enquire about the patients' survival.


When data collection concluded, 48 patients (38.4%) had died, giving mean survival following drain insertion of 84.1 days. There were no in-hospital deaths related to the procedure. One procedure was converted to a mini-thoracotomy to control bleeding from a lung tear. Mean duration of catheter placement was 87.01 days (5-434). Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery was used in 77 patients (61.6%), and Seldinger's technique was used in 48 patients (38.4%). Mesothelioma was the most common malignant cause. Minor complications were encountered in 15 patients (12%), and they were managed as outpatients.


The use of ambulatory pleural catheters for managing malignant pleural effusion is a safe and effective strategy. It has only minor complications that are related to prolonged drainage. We feel that this strategy should be considered the first choice option for these patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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