Safety and Accuracy of Semirigid Pleuroscopy Performed by Pulmonary Fellows at a Major University Hospital: Our Initial Experience

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Abstract

Background:

Pleuroscopy is considered a safe procedure with a high diagnostic accuracy but this record is based on studies published by pulmonologists experienced in performing the procedure.

Methods:

Review of 40 consecutive patients who underwent semirigid pleuroscopy by a pulmonary fellow under the supervision of a pulmonologist.

Results:

Pleuroscopy was performed for diagnosis of pleural effusion (n=33), or treatment of pleural effusion (n=4) or pneumothorax (n=3). The mean age±SD of the patients was 58.23±12.98 years and 23 patients were male. Pleuroscopy was performed with a flex-rigid pleuroscope under local anesthesia and conscious sedation. An ultrasound was used to choose the entry site. The dose of midazolam and fentanyl used was 6.45±2.87 mg and 173.39±77.17 mcg, respectively. The duration of the procedure was 69.3±25.3 minutes. The amount of pleural fluid removed was 1.5±0.94 L. The overall diagnostic accuracy of pleuroscopy was 87.8%, and the sensitivity, specificity, negative and positive predictive value for malignancy was 93.9%, 100%, 92.3% and 100%, respectively. There were a few complications: desaturation (n=2), hypotension (n=5), extensive subcutaneous emphysema (n=3), and persistent air leak (n=1). There was no case of significant bleeding or death from the procedure. Six of the 7 cardiopulmonary complications occurred during the first 4 procedures performed by the fellows.

Conclusions:

The diagnostic accuracy of pleuroscopy remains high in the hands of pulmonary fellows. However, the procedure can be associated with a slightly higher rate of complications when performed by fellows in training, especially in the early part of their learning curve. Most of the few complications observed were not caused by the procedure per se and resulted from over-zealous use of medications for conscious sedation.

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