Advances in the management of malignant pleural effusion

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Purpose of review

The current review describes the latest evidence in the management of malignant pleural effusions (MPE).

Recent findings

Daily drainage of indwelling pleural catheters achieved auto-pleurodesis at a higher rate compared with every-other-day drainage [0.47 vs. 0.24; difference in proportion of 0.23; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.08–0.38; P = 0.003]. In patients with MPE undergoing talc pleurodesis, a large multicenter randomized clinical trial found that pain control with opiates vs. nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) group were not significantly different (mean visual analog scale of 23.8 vs. 22.1 mm, respectively, adjusted difference −1.5 mm; 95% CI 1.3–3.4; P = 0.40). NSAID use was found to be noninferior to opiates with respect to the rate of pleurodesis failure at 3-month follow-up (prespecified noninferiority margin 15%, failure rates 20% opiates vs. 23% NSAIDS, respectively, difference −3%, 95% CI −10% to ∞; P = 0.004 for noninferiority). Talc remains the most effective sclerosing agent based on multiple systematic reviews and meta-analyses.


More prospective studies are needed to determine the optimal frequency of indwelling pleural catheters drainage. NSAIDS can be used for pain control and do not adversely impact the chance of successful pleurodesis.

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