Indwelling pleural catheters (IPCs) offer effective control of malignant pleural effusions (MPEs). IPC-related infection is uncommon but remains a major concern. Individual IPC centers see few infections, and previous reports lack sufficient numbers and detail. This study combined the experience of 11 centers from North America, Europe, and Australia to describe the incidence, microbiology, management, and clinical outcomes of IPC-related pleural infection.
This was a multicenter retrospective review of 1,021 patients with IPCs. All had confirmed MPE.
Only 50 patients (4.9%) developed an IPC-related pleural infection; most (94%) were successfully controlled with antibiotics (62% IV). One death (2%) directly resulted from the infection, whereas two patients (4%) had ongoing infectious symptoms when they died of cancer progression. Staphylococcus aureus was the causative organism in 48% of cases. Infections from gram-negative organisms were associated with an increased need for continuous antibiotics or death (60% vs 15% in gram-positive and 25% mixed infections, P = .02). The infections in the majority (54%) of cases were managed successfully without removing the IPC. Postinfection pleurodesis developed in 31 patients (62%), especially those infected with staphylococci (79% vs 45% with nonstaphylococcal infections, P = .04).
The incidence of IPC-related pleural infection was low. The overall mortality risk from pleural infection in patients treated with IPC was only 0.29%. Antibiotics should cover S aureus and gram-negative organisms until microbiology is confirmed. Postinfection pleurodesis is common and often allows removal of IPC. Heterogeneity in management is common, and future studies to define the optimal treatment strategies are needed.