Thoracoscopic talc insufflation (TTI) has been used to obliterate the pleural space and prevent recurrent pleural effusions or pneumothorax. Reports of acute pneumonitis and ARDS after the use of talc raised concern about its safety. Differences in particle size of various talc preparations may explain the variable occurrence of pneumonitis. We sought to determine the incidence of lung injury after TTI over a 13-year period at our institution.
Patients who underwent TTI between January 1994 and July 2007 were identified from a prospectively maintained logbook. The talc used was commercially available sterile talc (Sclerosol). The hospital course was reviewed in detail, and all cases of respiratory insufficiency were examined with regard to onset, suspected cause, and outcome. Talc-related lung injury was defined as the presence of new infiltrates on chest radiograph and increased oxygen requirements, with no other identifiable trigger than talc exposure.
A total of 138 patients underwent 142 TTIs for recurrent pleural effusions or spontaneous pneumothorax. TTI was performed most frequently for malignant pleural effusions (75.5% of effusions). The median dose of talc was 6 g (range, 2-8 g). Dyspnea with increased oxygen requirements developed within 72 h postprocedure for 12 patients. Four patients (2.8%) had talc-related lung injury, and talc exposure may have contributed to the respiratory deterioration in four additional patients.
We report the occurrence of lung injury after TTI using the only talc approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. These results reinforce previous concerns regarding the talc used for pleurodesis in North America.