Indwelling Tunneled Pleural Catheters for the Management of Hepatic Hydrothorax: A Pilot Study

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Hepatic hydrothorax is a complication of cirrhosis in which hydrostatic imbalances result in fluid accumulation within the pleural space. Although uncommon, this may cause significant morbidity, resulting in dyspnea requiring repeated pleural drainage procedures. Liver transplantation is curative, but it is rarely immediately available to qualified patients, presenting the clinical challenge of managing recurrent pleural effusions. Indwelling tunneled pleural catheters (ITPCs) have been used successfully to palliate dyspnea associated with recurrent malignant pleural effusions.


This study was performed to evaluate the feasibility of using ITPCs for the management of hepatic hydrothorax.


A single-center prospective feasibility study was performed to evaluate the use of ITPCs for the management of recurrent hepatic hydrothorax in patients who were eligible for liver transplant evaluation.

Measurements and Main Results:

Twenty-five ITPCs were placed in 24 patients. The mean number of pleural drainage procedures before ITPC placement was 1.9, with no further pleural drainages required in any patient after ITPC placement. Spontaneous pleurodesis occurred in 8 of 24 patients (33%). All eight catheters were successfully removed without pleural fluid reaccumulation. Mean time to pleurodesis was 131.8 days. Pleural fluid infection occurred in 4 of 24 patients (16.7%), requiring catheter removal in 3 of the 4 patients.


ITPCs may be successfully and safely used to control symptoms associated with hepatic hydrothorax. The rate of spontaneous pleurodesis that occurs is similar to that observed with ITPCs placed for malignant pleural effusion, although the infection rate may be higher.


Clinical trial registered with (NCT02595567).

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