Malignant pleural effusions are associated with significant morbidity. Prompt clinical evaluation followed by aggressive treatment often results in successful palliation. This report summarizes the traditional and experimental approaches used in the management of malignant pleural effusion and provides an attempt at analysis of cost comparison and resource utilization associated with the use of various sclerosing agents. The standard sclerotherapy for malignant pleural effusions has routinely been performed as an inpatient procedure using a large-bore chest tube for drainage and instillation of a sclerosing agent. Use of a small-bore catheter for drainage and pleurodesis is associated with reduced patient discomfort and appears to be feasible and equally efficacious in the ambulatory setting. Results with the ambulatory procedure are preliminary but promising. Future comparisons with the traditional approach will allow therapy to be based not only on efficacy, but also on the use and expense of related resources.