Draining Pleural Effusions at Home

The University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing
Last Modified: May 8, 2013

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Question

I have an effusion that keeps filling up, and I have been getting it drained every week at my doctor's office. They want me to have some type of catheter put in so it can be drained at home. That sounds risky – wouldn't I be more at risk of infection if I do it myself at home?

Answer

Anil Vachani, MD, Pulmonologist at Penn Medicine, responds:

Patients with pleural effusions caused by cancer can be treated with various strategies that can include frequent drainage procedures done in the office or having a catheter placed in the pleural space. The catheter can then be drained several times per week, which may lead to greater improvement in symptoms when compared with only weekly drainage. Frequent drainage may also lead to the pleural space becoming "dry" and allowing the catheter to be removed at some point. There is a small risk of developing an infection with the catheter, but this is pretty low. You would have training by a nurse to teach you the correct way to perform the draining at home and how to avoid infection.

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series. View the entire Focus on Lung Cancer transcript.