What is an indwelling pleural catheter?
An indwelling pleural catheter is a small tube specially designed to drain fluid from around the lungs. This type of catheter is a soft, flexible tube with a diameter similar to a pencil. It is preferred over a chest tube, which must be inserted every time fluid builds up, is uncomfortable and carries risks.
The indwelling pleural catheter is placed inside the chest while patients are under local anesthesia. One end remains inside the chest and the other leads outside the body for drainage. The catheter does not limit patient activity.
Indwelling pleural catheter for lung cancer
This type of catheter gets its name from what’s known as the “pleural space,” which consists of two thin membranes, one lining the lung and the other lining the chest wall. When lung tissue expands normally, the pleural space compresses against the chest wall but remains dry.
Tumors in the lung can spread into this space and cause fluid to build up. This condition is called malignant pleural effusion, which your doctor would diagnose by a physical examination of the chest, chest X-ray, CT scan and analysis of the of the fluid drained from your chest.
Malignant pleural effusion prevents the lung from functioning properly and leaves you short of breath. Some patients may also experience chest pain, a cough and/or fever. We use indwelling pleural catheters to make fluid drainage easy and relatively pain-free. Your breathing improves once the fluid is removed.