benign plural effusion: PleurX catheter or thoracentesis due to 2.5 years of fluid accumulation


Dilemma: Pleurx catheter vs thoracentesis for postsurgical benign plural effusion combined with slow chylothorax for 2.5 y. 90 y o dear mom had thoracentesis a few times (last one 15 months ago) for evaluation of fluid. Now for the first time ever she is out of breath and has cough due to her moderate R plural effusion increase. Due to ultra low fat diet chylothorax is minimal. In the past asymptomatic plural effusion returned in the same amount within 2 days of thoracentesis. First year after last thoracentesis was asymptomatic but now one or the other needs to be done. Catheter downsides: daily pain, discomfort, and unknown. Thoracentesis's hesitation: I dont know whether there is increased risk due to R lung had been in the pleural effusion environment for 2.5 y and is there a risk to suddenly removing about a liter for a 90 y o- does it add any thoracentesis post procedure risks, like pneumothorax, ability of the lung to open? Which procedure out of two is less risky and which one makes more sense in this case? Thank you very much for any thoughts or sharing experiences

JanineT GRACE …
Posts: 611
GRACE Community Outreach Team

Hi and welcome to GRACE.  I'm sorry your mom is having this difficulty.  An indwelling catheter is used when the pleura space continually fills and the catheter is always there to drain.  If breathing is likely to improve for some time after draining then there may be no reason to risk infection and pain with a catheter.  However, there may be other aspects of your mom's condition that only a pulmonologist or an interventional pulmonologist can determine.  People with lung and airway or chest diseases benefit from the services of interventional pulmonology specialists. They are expert in advanced diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. 


I hope your mom is breathing better soon.

Take care,


I joined GRACE as a caregiver for my husband who had a Pancoast tumor, NSCLC stage III in 2009. He had curative chemo/rads then it was believed he had a recurrence in the spine/oligometastasis that was radiated. He's 10 years out from treatment.