BACKGROUND--The treatment of recurrent pleural effusion in advanced malignant disease should be efficient and with tolerable side effects. Since 1983 intrathoracic instillation of the anti-malaria drug mepacrine has been used to achieve pleurodesis. The cytotoxic drug bleomycin has been claimed to be equally effective and with fewer side effects. The present study was designed to compare these two agents. METHODS--Forty patients with carcinoma and pleural effusions refractory to repeated pleural aspirations over the previous 12 weeks were randomised to receive treatment with intrathoracic instillation of mepacrine or bleomycin. Fluid volumes before and after pleurodesis, drainage time, and side effects were registered and analysed, and the response to treatment was evaluated by clinical examination and chest radiography. RESULTS--The amount of fluid produced after treatment in the patients receiving mepacrine was lower than in those receiving bleomycin, and the duration of chest drainage was shorter. After 30 days 16 of 20 in the mepacrine group responded to treatment and 10 of 20 in the bleomycin group. Most patients died during the three months observation period. Moderate side effects occurred equally in both groups. CONCLUSIONS--Chemical pleurodesis can reduce or stop pleural effusion in many patients, and in this study mepacrine appeared to be more efficient than bleomycin. A prospective study with a larger number of patients is now warranted.
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