Study objective: To demonstrate the efficacy, safety, and appropriate mode of instillation of talc for sclerosis in treatment of malignant pleural effusions (MPEs).
Design: A prospective, randomized trial was designed to compare thoracoscopy with talc insufflation (TTI) to thoracostomy and talc slurry (TS) for patients with documented MPE.
Measurements: The primary end point was 30-day freedom from radiographic MPE recurrence among surviving patients whose lungs initially re-expanded > 90%. Morbidity, mortality, and quality of life were also assessed.
Results: Of 501 patients registered, those eligible were randomized to TTI (n = 242) or TS (n = 240). Patient demographics and primary malignancies were similar between study arms. Overall, there was no difference between study arms in the percentage of patients with successful 30-day outcomes (TTI, 78%; TS, 71%). However, the subgroup of patients with primary lung or breast cancer had higher success with TTI than with TS (82% vs 67%). Common morbidity included fever, dyspnea, and pain. Treatment-related mortality occurred in nine TTI patients and seven TS patients. Respiratory complications were more common following TTI than TS (14% vs 6%). Respiratory failure was observed in 4% of TS patients and 8% of TTI patients, accounting for five toxic deaths and six toxic deaths, respectively. Quality-of-life measurement demonstrated less fatigue with TTI than TS. Patient ratings of comfort and safety were also higher for TTI, but there were no differences on perceived value or convenience of the procedures.
Conclusions: Both methods of talc delivery are similar in efficacy; TTI may be better for patients with either a lung or breast primary. The etiology and incidence of respiratory complications from talc need further exploration.