Indwelling tunneled pleural catheters for the management of hepatic hydrothorax

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Purpose of review

Hepatic hydrothorax is a complication of end-stage liver disease that may have significant associated morbidity. Sodium restriction and diuretic therapy are the mainstays of treatment, though up to a quarter of patients will become refractory to this and will require a pleural drainage procedure. Thoracentesis, transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt, and chemical pleurodesis all have variable success rates and associated complications in the management of hepatic hydrothorax. Indwelling tunneled pleural catheters (ITPC) have been successfully used to manage recurrent symptomatic malignant pleural effusions, and there is growing interest regarding their use in the management of hepatic hydrothorax.

Recent findings

Evidence regarding the use of ITPC for nonmalignant pleural effusions has been limited to retrospective studies and small feasibility trials. A recent meta-analysis regarding the use of IPTC for nonmalignant pleural effusions demonstrated a rate of spontaneous pleurodesis of 51%, whereas a small, prospective study demonstrated spontaneous pleurodesis rates of 33% and an infection rate of 16.7% in 24 patients with ITPC placed for hepatic hydrothorax in patients suitable for liver transplant evaluation.


ITPC may be an acceptable treatment option for the management of hepatic hydrothorax which are refractory to conventional medical management. Larger, randomized controlled trials are needed to further evaluate the safety and efficacy of these catheters for the management of nonmalignant pleural effusions.

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