Malignant pleural effusions: Recent advances and ambulatory sclerotherapy
Malignant pleural effusions are a common problem in cancer patients with advanced disease. Patients typically present with progressive dyspnea, cough, and/or chest pain that significantly compromises their quality of life. Treatment is often palliative, usually consisting of sequential thoracenteses or tube thoracostomy with or without sclerotherapy. The traditional method of treatment-tube thoracostomy with large-bore chest tubes connected to continuous wall suction-requires hospitalization, is expensive, limits patient mobility, and can cause significant patient discomfort. More recent trials have explored new techniques, including thoracoscopic insufflation of talc and small-bore catheters. Most of these studies have been performed on inpatients, although a recent multi-institutional trial was initiated to evaluate the feasibility and efficacy of ambulatory (outpatient) pleural drainage and sclerotherapy using small-bore catheters. All patients fulfilling eligibility criteria had a small-bore catheter placed in the pleural space that was then connected to a closed gravity drainage bag system. When daily tube drainage was <100 mL, sclerotherapy was performed. Response rates at our institution demonstrated 10 patients (53%) had a complete response, 5 (26%) had a partial response, and 4 (21%) had progressive disease at 30-day follow-up. These preliminary results suggest ambulatory sclerotherapy is a safe, viable alternative to conventional inpatient treatment of malignant pleural effusions in a select group of patients.
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