Malignant pleural effusion in the presence of trapped lung. Five-year experience of PleurX tunnelled catheters

Christopher Andrew Efthymiou, Tahir Masudi, James Andrew Charles Thorpe, Kostas Papagiannopoulos
Interactive Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery 2009, 9 (6): 961-4
Malignant pleural effusions in the presence of trapped lung remain notoriously difficult to treat. Various methods exist ranging from minimally invasive procedures including repeated needle thoracocentesis to the need for a formal surgical procedure such as placement of a pleuroperitoneal shunt and even thoracotomy and decortication. Controversy exists as to what is the optimum treatment for this condition. Any planned treatment should balance the therapeutic benefit provided against convalesce for a disease with a limited life expectancy. Patients should not spend a significant proportion of their remaining life span recovering from palliative procedures. In a series of patients with malignant pleural effusion the medial survival time was 20 weeks, with 30 days and 1 year mortality rates of 12.8% and 83.6%, respectively. We describe our five-year experience with the use of indwelling PleurX catheters in patients with malignant pleural effusions in the presence of confirmed trapped lung on radiological or VATS investigation. Patient health related quality of life was investigated by telephone questionnaire. The parameters analysed were symptomatic relief, mobility and ease of management following insertion. One hundred and sixteen patients underwent PleurX catheter insertion by a single operator, 48 questionnaires were completed. Of the 48 cases analysed, improvement in all three quality of life indices was recorded following catheter insertion. Ease of mobility was recorded as moderately satisfied and very satisfied in 50% and 15% of patients, respectively. Symptomatic improvement was found to have been increased with 42% and 6% of patients responding to moderately satisfied and very satisfied, respectively. Ease of management was recorded as 'slightly satisfied' and moderately satisfied in 50% and 33% of patients, respectively, demonstrating a high satisfaction index in patients with chronic progressively debilitating malignancies. Complications were either transient or readily correctable. Pain was the predominant complication occurring in 35% of patients lasting <3 days. No patient required catheter removal for resolution of discomfort. Our findings support the use of PleurX catheters for palliative patients with malignant pleural effusions in the presence of trapped lung. The catheters are not only easy to insert and discrete but they can be managed effectively by patients and community nurse practitioners and prevent repeated admissions to hospital in palliative patients with compromised life expectancy.

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