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Complications of indwelling pleural catheter use and their management
  1. Macy M S Lui1,2,
  2. Rajesh Thomas2,3,4 and
  3. Y C Gary Lee2,3,4
  1. 1Division of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Medicine, Queen Mary Hospital, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  2. 2Department of Respiratory Medicine, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Perth, Western Australia, Australia
  3. 3Pleural Medicine Unit, Institute of Respiratory Health, Perth, Western Australia, Australia
  4. 4Centre for Respiratory Health, School of Medicine & Pharmacology, University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Professor YC Gary Lee; gary.lee{at}


The growing utilisation of indwelling pleural catheters (IPCs) has put forward a new era in the management of recurrent symptomatic pleural effusions. IPC use is safe compared to talc pleurodesis, though complications can occur. Pleural infection affects <5% of patients, and is usually responsive to antibiotic treatment without requiring catheter removal or surgery. Pleural loculations develop over time, limiting drainage in 10% of patients, which can be improved with intrapleural fibrinolytic therapy. Catheter tract metastasis can occur with most tumours but is more common in mesothelioma. The metastases usually respond to analgaesics and/or external radiotherapy. Long-term intermittent drainage of exudative effusions or chylothorax can potentially lead to loss of nutrients, though no data exist on any clinical impact. Fibrin clots within the catheter lumen can result in blockage. Chest pain following IPC insertion is often mild, and adjustments in analgaesics and drainage practice are usually all that are required. As clinical experience with the use of IPC accumulates, the profile and natural course of complications are increasingly described. We aim to summarise the available literature on IPC-related complications and the evidence to support specific strategies.

  • Pleural Disease
  • Empyema
  • Mesothelioma

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