Mesothelioma may cause pleural effusions, a condition where fluid builds up in the lining of the lungs and makes breathing difficult. A procedure called a pleurodesis can drain this fluid to help patients breathe with ease. Learn more about how doctors treat fluid buildup using a mesothelioma pleurodesis below.

What Is a Mesothelioma Pleurodesis?

A pleurodesis is a type of treatment for pleural effusions. Doctors surgically apply talc or another substance between the two layers of the pleura (lung lining). The talc irritates the pleura and causes the layers to stick together.

In patients with mesothelioma, pleural effusions occur when tiny asbestos fibers get stuck inside the pleura. Eventually, cancer cells develop due to decades of irritation from the asbestos fibers. The cancer cells cause more pleural fluid to develop than if cancer wasn’t present, causing effusions.

A mesothelioma pleurodesis can drain these painful effusions and stop more fluid from building up.

Steps of a Mesothelioma Pleurodesis

A pleurodesis can be performed if a patient is already suffering from a pleural effusion or to prevent one from developing. These different options mean the procedure has some variations.

If there is no fluid present in the lung lining:

  1. A tube called a thoracoscope is inserted into the chest. A camera attached to the tube allows doctors to make sure it is in between the pleura.
  2. The talc is sent through the tube into the pleural space, helping the lung linings stick together and not retain fluid.

There are a few more steps to the process if fluid has already built up.

If fluid is present:

  1. A local anesthetic is given and a needle is inserted into the chest.
  2. The needle is placed exactly where fluid has built up.
  3. The needle is attached to a chest tube and collection bag, allowing the fluid to drain off slowly.
  4. After the fluid is gone, talc is inserted through the chest tube. A small stitch closes the wound.

Types of Mesothelioma Pleurodesis

There are several types of mesothelioma pleurodesis, and different methods are used according to a patient’s diagnosis. Learn about each type below.

Video-Assisted Thoracic Surgery Pleurodesis

In this procedure, doctors perform thoracic (chest) surgery on the patient to apply the talc. A thoracoscope is used to guide the talc into the pleura.

Only a few small incisions are made with this procedure. It may require general anesthesia, although some situations allow for it to be performed with an IV sedation and a local anesthetic.

Chemical Pleurodesis

This is a more specific name for a standard pleurodesis. Doctors usually create a single incision to insert talc or another chemical into the pleura. Only local anesthesia is needed.

Some studies indicate this method is less effective long-term than a video-assisted pleurodesis, although recovery time is usually quicker.

Rapid Pleurodesis

Rapid pleurodesis is an alternative to currently accepted pleurodesis options that is being tested in clinical trials. A rapid pleurodesis is performed by placing a tiny tube into the chest to drain fluid and then inserting talc in a liquid form.

Due to the size of the tube and small incision, recovery time is greatly reduced. The procedure takes less than 24 hours in total.

Rapid pleurodesis is performed as an outpatient surgery, giving patients with limited health more days at home rather than in hospitals.

Mesothelioma Pleurodesis Benefits

The greatest benefit of a mesothelioma talc pleurodesis is that the pleural effusion will be gone, so patients won’t experience chest pain, shortness of breath, and chronic coughing.

This mesothelioma treatment may also help patients live slightly longer. Studies show the average life expectancy of patients who received a pleurodesis was 14 months. The life expectancy of those who undergo no treatment is 12 months or less.

Mesothelioma Pleurodesis Risks and Drawbacks

Like in any medical procedure, there are risks to a mesothelioma pleurodesis.

They may include:

  • Anesthesia-related complications (if used)
  • Bleeding
  • Chest pain
  • Fever
  • Infection
  • Other rare health problems, such as cardiac issues

Also, consider that not every mesothelioma pleurodesis will be a success. In some cases a pleural effusion will return, requiring more treatments.

Finally, a pleurodesis is a palliative care option, meaning it mainly helps ease symptoms and not improve the lifespan. Other treatments like surgeries and chemotherapy may help patients live longer. Patients can ask their doctor about other life-extending treatments that may be available.

Learn More About Mesothelioma Pleurodesis

A pleurodesis is an important option to those fighting mesothelioma. To learn more about mesothelioma pleurodesis and other treatments, contact our team today. Our Patient Advocates can tell you about available treatment options and connect you to top doctors.

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Laura WrightWritten by:

Lead Editor

Laura Wright is a journalist and content strategist with more than 15 years of professional experience. She attended college at the University of Florida, graduating magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2008. Her writing has been featured in The Gainesville Sun and other regional publications throughout Florida.

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  5. Mierzejewski, M., Korczynski, P., Krenke, R. et al. (2019). Chemical pleurodesis – a review of mechanisms involved in pleural space obliteration. Respir Res 20, 247.

  6. Özkul, S., Turna, A., Demirkaya, A., Aksoy, B., & Kaynak, K. (2014). Rapid pleurodesis is an outpatient alternative in patients with malignant pleural effusions: a prospective randomized controlled trial. Journal of thoracic disease, 6(12). 1731–1735.

  7. Taioli, E., van Gerwen, M., Mihalopoulos, M., Moskowitz, G., Liu, B., & Flores, R. (2017). Review of malignant pleural mesothelioma survival after talc pleurodesis or surgery. Journal of thoracic disease, 9(12), 5423–5433.

  8. UpToDate. (2019 October 22). Talc Pleurodesis. UpToDate

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