Semin Respir Crit Care Med 2008; 29(4): 405-413
DOI: 10.1055/s-2008-1081283
© Thieme Medical Publishers

Management of Malignant Pleural Effusions

Marcelo Spector1 , Jeffrey S. Pollak1
  • 1Section of Vascular and Interventional Radiology, Department of Radiology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut
Further Information

Publication History

Publication Date:
23 July 2008 (online)


Malignant pleural effusions (MPEs) are commonly seen as complications of advanced malignancy, especially in lung cancer and breast cancer. The management will depend on the performance status of the patient, severity of the symptoms, and the primary tumor's response to systemic therapy. Thoracentesis is usually the first step for both diagnostic and therapeutic reasons. Chest tube placement with sclerotherapy is successful in 60 to 90% of cases, but it requires hospitalization for ~1 week. Alternatively, long-term tunneled pleural drainage catheters can be performed on an outpatient basis and are effective in controlling symptoms in 80 to 100% of patients. Additional advantages are the ability to treat trapped lung, large loculated effusions, and bilateral effusions simultaneously, as well as lower charges. Spontaneous pleurodesis can occur in up to 50% of the patients. Tunneled catheters should be considered in all patients with MPE and particularly those who have a reasonable expectancy of being outpatient.


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Marcelo SpectorM.D. 

Section of Vascular and Interventional Radiology, Department of Radiology, Yale University School of Medicine

P.O. Box 208042, New Haven, CT 06520-8042