Use of small-bore vs large-bore chest tubes for treatment of malignant pleural effusions

W Parulekar, G Di Primio, F Matzinger, C Dennie, G Bociek
Chest 2001, 120 (1): 19-25

STUDY OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the efficacy of small-bore (12 French vanSonnenberg) catheters compared with standard large-bore chest tubes in the drainage and sclerotherapy of malignant pleural effusions.

DESIGN: Retrospective review.

SETTING: An academic tertiary care hospital.

PATIENTS: Adult patients with documented neoplasms and malignant pleural effusions, treated between 1986 and 1995.

INTERVENTION: All patients included in the study underwent drainage of malignant pleural effusions either by large-bore chest tube or by ultrasound-guided small-bore catheter. After drainage, pleurodesis was performed.

RESULTS: Outcome as defined by recurrence of effusion was determined by blinded examination of all postpleurodesis chest radiographs. We identified 58 cases of malignant pleural effusion in which small-bore catheters were used and 44 in which large-bore chest tubes were used. The majority of patients had breast (n = 56, 55%) or lung cancer (n = 29, 28%). The median age was 65 years. Fifty-nine patients were actively being treated with chemotherapy at the time of pleurodesis. The following sclerosing agents were used: talc, 27 (26%); tetracycline, 72 (70%); bleomycin, 2 (2%); and interferon, 1 (1%). Actuarial probabilities of recurrence at 6 weeks and 4 months were 45% and 53% for the small tubes vs 45% and 51% for the large tubes. Univariate and multivariate analyses failed to demonstrate that tube size had any influence on the rate of recurrence.

CONCLUSIONS: We were unable to detect any major differences in outcomes with the use of either size of chest tube. Our study suggests that small-bore catheters may be effective in the treatment of malignant pleural effusions and deserve further evaluation in prospectively designed trials.

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