Indwelling pleural catheters for recurrent pleural effusions: A useful clinical tool with serious implications

Samuel Copeland MD, Audra Schwalk MD, Sakolwan Suchartlikitwong MD, Shengping Yang PhD, Gilbert Berdine MD


Background: Indwelling pleural catheters (IPC) have been used increasingly in patients with recurrent pleural effusions. However, data about mortality after IPC use are limited.

Objectives: We sought to determine the natural history following IPC placement in Lubbock, Texas, in terms of life expectancy and pleurodesis rates in patients with both malignant and benign effusions.

Methods: A retrospective review of patients who had IPC insertion from March 2014 through December 2016 at University Medical Center in Lubbock, Texas, was performed. Patients 18 years and older who had IPC placement for recurrent pleural effusions were included. The duration of IPC placement, the type of pleural effusion, the volume of fluid, pleurodesis, complications, and mortality after IPC placement were retrieved from electronic medical records.

Results: There were 45 patients included in the study; 20 patients (44%) were male, and 25 patients (56%) were female. The mean age was 63.5 years old. There were 33 patients with malignant pleural effusion and 12 patients with benign pleural effusion. No patients with malignant effusion were known to be alive at the time of mortality calculation, whereas two patients with benign effusion were known to be alive. Median survival was 468 days in the benign effusion group and 115 days in the malignant effusion group. The 30-day mortality was not significantly different between the two groups (malignant 34.5% vs. benign 25.0%). However, 1-year mortality was significantly higher in the malignant effusion group (89.7%) than in the benign effusion group (41.7%) (p < 0.005).

Conclusion: The use of indwelling pleural catheters in Lubbock, Texas, has comparable results to published studies. These catheters should be considered as a bridge to a long-term treatment rather than a definitive therapy.

Keywords: Recurrent pleural effusion, indwelling pleural catheter, mortality, survival, pleurodesis

Article citation: Copeland S, Schwalk A, Suchartlikitwong S, Yang S, Berdine G. Indwelling pleural catheters for recurrent pleural effusions: a useful clinical tool with serious implications. The Southwest Respiratory and Critical Care Chronicles 2018;6(25):8–13
From: The Department of Internal Medicine at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock, Texas
Submitted: 5/7/2018
Accepted: 7/3/2018
Reviewer: Victor Test MD
Conflicts of interest: none
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