The therapeutic options available for the management of malignant pleural effusions associated with a restricting malignant cortex remain unsatisfactory. The efficacy of pleuroperitoneal shunts was evaluated in 16 patients with recurrent malignant effusions. There were no operative deaths; one patient died on the third postoperative day as a result of lymphangitis carcinomatosa. The median hospital stay was five (range 3-21) days. Palliation was obtained in all but one of the other 15 patients. There was no appreciable reaccumulation of pleural fluid as judged by radiography. Two patients developed occlusion of the shunt. In one case this was due to blood clots in the pleural catheter and necessitated insertion of a new shunt. The other shunt was removed because of obstructing infected fibrin debris, and a rib resection was performed. There were eight deaths related to the underlying malignancy after a mean interval of 7.3 (range 1.5-23) months. The other six patients are still alive, with a mean survival of 11.0 (range 5-20) months, and have achieved good symptomatic relief. The insertion of a pleuroperitoneal shunt can offer effective palliation for patients with recurrent malignant pleural effusions.
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