Internal Medicine Journal. 2007 Apr;37(4):267-9. [Link]

Simpson G.

James Cook University, Cairns, Queensland, Australia.


Medical thoracoscopy is not widely available in Australia. A medical thoracoscopy service has been set up in a regional hospital using no specialized equipment and at minimal cost. Of the first 100 procedures carried out, 89 were for investigation of pleural effusion, 6 for pneumothorax and 6 for empyema. Of the 89 pleural effusions, 73 were diagnosed as malignant (43 carcinoma, 24 mesothelioma, 3 lymphoma, 2 melanoma and 1 sarcoma). The sensitivity for a malignant diagnosis was 94.5%, with 100% specificity. Four patients had unsuspected tuberculous effusions. Pleurodesis was carried out with instillation of dry sterile talc in 67 cases. In 92.5% of these, no further drainage procedure was needed. There was one fatality caused by pre-existing sepsis in a debilitated patient with disseminated carcinoma. Medical thoracoscopy is a simple, safe and cost-effective technique for diagnosing and treating pleural effusions and provides a useful service in the setting of a regional hospital.