BACKGROUND: Symptomatic malignant pleural effusion (MPE) occurs frequently in patients with metastatic cancer. The associated prognosis is poor and the success rate of talc pleurodesis (TP) is low. Indwelling pleural catheters (IPCs) are commonly inserted when TP has been unsuccessful.
METHODS: We compared talc pleurodesis with the use of an indwelling pleural catheter in patients with recurrent MPE in a multicenter randomized controlled trial (superiority design). The primary endpoint was improvement from baseline in Modified Borg Score (MBS) 6weeks after randomized treatment. Secondary endpoints were hospitalization days, re-interventions, and adverse events.
RESULTS: Dyspnea improved significantly (p<0.01) after either treatment, but the magnitude of this improvement did not differ significantly between arms (median 3 and 1 for TP:IPC respectively in rest, p=0.16, (TP 13:IPC 16) and 3 and 1 during exercise, p=0.72 (TP 13:IPC 17)). There was no difference in dyspnea during exercise between TP and IPC at week 6 following treatment, while at rest TP patients (n=13) reported less dyspnea than IPC patients (n=18) (median 0 vs 1, p=0.002). Compared to TP, patients with an IPC had significantly less hospital days during randomized treatment (median: 0 vs 5, p<0.0001), and total hospitalizations for all causes (median: 1.6 vs 1.0, p=0.0035). Fewer IPC patients underwent more than one re-intervention (7/45 vs 15/43, p=0.09). The mean number of re-interventions was lower following IPC (0.21 vs 0.53, p=0.05). Equal number of adverse events occurred.
CONCLUSIONS: IPC was not superior in the primary endpoint, improvement of the modified Borg scale (MBS). However, IPC patients had lower hospital stay, fewer admissions and fewer re-interventions. The IPC is an effective treatment modality in patients with symptomatic malignant pleural effusion.