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Talc poudrage versus talc slurry in the treatment of malignant pleural effusion. A prospective comparative study.

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to investigate the effectiveness, safety and appropriate mode of administration of intrapleural talc for pleurodesis, in the treatment of malignant pleural effusion (MPE).

METHODS: Prospective not randomized trial was conducted to compare thoracoscopic talc poudrage (TP) with tube thoracostomy and talc slurry (TS) for the local control of malignant pleural effusion. Both procedures were previously standardized; 6g of talc was administered for each procedure. Only the patients with lung re-expansion after drainage entered the study. Patients at high risk for general anaesthesia, poor general conditions and short life-expectancy received talc slurry through a chest tube, at the bedside. All the other patients underwent videothoracoscopic talc poudrage, with a pneumatic atomizer, under general anaesthesia. Morbidity, 30-day freedom from recurrence and long-term results were assessed and the two groups were compared.

RESULTS: One hundred and nine patients entered the study (72 TP, 37 TS). Sixty-three patients in the TP group (87.5%) and 27 in the TS group (73%) had an immediate successful pleurodesis (p = 0.049); 53 patients (88.3%) and 16 patients (69.6%) had a successful pleurodesis 90 days after the procedure; 59 patients (81.9%) and 23 patients (62.2%), respectively, had a life-long pleural symphysis (p = 0.023). Adverse effects were generally mild: chest pain (36.1% in TP patients, 48.6% in TS patients) and fever (38.8% and 35.1%, respectively) were the more common but the difference was not significant between the two groups. We observed neither acute respiratory failure nor mortality due to the procedure.

CONCLUSIONS: Our study confirms that intrapleural talc carries good results in the treatment of malignant pleural effusion. TP was significantly more effective than TS; both methods were safe but TS had a higher incidence of thoracic pain during the procedure. Talc pleurodesis should be offered to every patient with MPE, apart from terminally ill ones, provided that a satisfying lung re-expansion has been achieved. TP should be performed whenever possible; otherwise, a slurry bedside procedure will be worthwhile, even in patients with low performance status (PS), though poorer results have to be expected. A careful selection is essential to define the proper technique.

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