Medical thoracoscopy (MT) is performed by relatively few pulmonologists in the United States. Recognizing that an outpatient minimally invasive procedure such as MT could provide a suitable alternative to hospitalization and surgery in patients with undiagnosed exudative pleural effusions, we initiated the Mayo Clinic outpatient MT program and herein report preliminary data on safety, feasibility, and outcomes.
All consecutive patients referred for outpatient MT from October 2011 to August 2013 were included in this study. Demographic, radiographic, procedural, and histologic data were recorded prospectively and subsequently analyzed.
Outpatient MT was performed on 51 patients, with the most common indication being an undiagnosed lymphocytic exudative effusion in 86.3% of the cohort. Endoscopic findings included diffuse parietal pleural inflammation in 26 patients (51%), parietal pleural studding in 19 patients (37.3%), a normal examination in three patients (5.9%), diffuse parietal pleural thickening in two patients (3.9%), and a diaphragmatic defect in one patient (2%). Pleural malignancy was the most common histologic diagnosis in 24 patients (47.1%) and composed predominantly of mesothelioma in 14 (27.5%). Nonspecific pleuritis was the second most frequent diagnosis in 23 patients (45.1%). There were very few complications, with no significant cases of hemodynamic or respiratory compromise and no deaths.
Outpatient MT can be integrated successfully into a busy tertiary referral medical center through the combined efforts of interventional pulmonologists and thoracic surgeons. Outpatient MT may provide patients with a more convenient alternative to an inpatient surgical approach in the diagnosis of undiagnosed exudative pleural effusions while maintaining a high diagnostic yield and excellent safety.