Indwelling Pleural Catheters for Patients with Hematologic Malignancies. A 14-Year, Single-Center Experience

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Placement of an indwelling pleural catheter is an established modality for symptom relief and pleurodesis in the treatment of malignant pleural effusion. Concerns remain regarding possible infectious complications, risk of hemorrhage, and the rate of pleurodesis with the use of pleural catheters in the treatment of hematologic malignancies.


The goals of our study were: (1) to evaluate the safety and cumulative incidence of pleurodesis with indwelling pleural catheters for patients with hematologic malignancies, and (2) to evaluate overall survival of this cohort of patients with pleural effusions.


We performed a retrospective review of 172 patients with a hematologic malignancy who underwent placement of an indwelling pleural catheter between September 1997 and August 2011 at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. A competing risk model analysis was used for complications and pleurodesis. Analysis was based on each patient's first intrapleural catheter.


There were 172 patients with lymphoma (58%), acute (16%) or chronic leukemia (16%), or multiple myeloma (10%). The effusions were characterized as malignant (85.5%), infectious (4.1%), volume overload (4.7%), or therapy-related (4.7%). Chylothorax was found in 20.1%. Pleural biopsies were obtained from 13 patients. The cumulative incidence of all complications was 13.6%, and the cumulative incidence of all significant catheter-related complications was 9.5%. The incidence of empyema was 2.9%, and major bleeding (requiring transfusion or intervention) was 1.7%. Thirty-day procedure-associated mortality was 0.6%. The cumulative incidence of pleurodesis at 180 days was 50%, with a median time to pleurodesis of 81 days for the entire cohort.


Indwelling pleural catheters appear to be safe for patients with hematologic malignancies. Complications and the cumulative incidence of pleurodesis are comparable to those reported for patients with solid organ malignancies.

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