Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Indwelling pleural catheter for lung cancer

Indwelling pleural catheter for lung cancer

This type of catheter gets its name from what is 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 or tumors that have metastasized from other organs may spread into this space and cause fluid to build up. This condition is called malignant pleural effusion, which your doctor would diagnose by performing a physical examination of the chest, a chest X-ray, a CT scan or a chest ultrasound.

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 help make fluid drainage as simple and pain-free as possible. Your breathing should improve once the fluid is removed.

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.