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Chest. 1995 Mar;107(3):845-52.

The impact of thoracoscopy on the management of pleural disease.

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Department of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, OH 44195.



To describe the diagnostic efficacy, morbidity, and patient outcome of thoracoscopy; to quantify the direct impact of thoracoscopy on clinical management; and to determine preoperative variables associated with finding malignancy at thoracoscopy to aid patient selection.


Retrospective chart review of consecutive cases of thoracoscopy for pleural disease.


Single tertiary medical center.


One hundred eighty-two consecutive patients who underwent thoracoscopy for pleural disease over a 5-year period (from 1987 through 1992).


Final diagnoses were 98 (54%) malignant, 58 (32%) benign, and 26 (14%) idiopathic. Thoracoscopy had a diagnostic sensitivity of 95% for malignancy and 100% for benign disease. Malignancy was shown by thoracoscopy in 27 of 41 (66%) patients who had a preoperative nondiagnostic closed pleural biopsy, and in 24 of 35 (69%) patients who had at least 2 preoperative negative pleural cytologic specimens. Chart review by preestablished criteria showed information obtained from thoracoscopy directly influenced treatment in 155 (85%) patients. Thirty-seven (20%) patients, however, had at least one perioperative complication (15% major, 8% minor). Ten (6%) patients died during the same hospitalization in which a thoracoscopy was performed, although none died within 48 h. There was one thoracoscopy-related death. Sixty-two (34%) patients died within 6 months of thoracoscopy (death by all causes). Forty-seven (48%) patients who had intrathoracic malignancy present at thoracoscopy died within 6 months. Patients found to have malignant pleural disease by thoracoscopy were more likely to have a preoperative history of a malignancy (p = 0.001). Age more than 50 years was associated with finding malignancy at thoracoscopy (p = 0.04). A combined lymphocytic and hemorrhagic effusion was associated with malignancy (p = 0.004). Preoperative pleural data showed that idiopathic effusions had a significantly lower median lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) value (192, which was normal) compared with malignant or benign effusions.


(1) Thoracoscopy increases yield for malignant and benign disease when thoracentesis and closed pleural biopsy are nondiagnostic. (2) Thoracoscopy directly affects clinical management in 85% of patients. (3) Significant complications can occur in patients receiving tertiary care. (4) For the evaluation of suspected malignant pleural disease, thoracoscopy has its greatest diagnostic yield in older patients who have a history of malignancy and who present with a lymphocytic, hemorrhagic, high LDH effusion.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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