Surgical Treatment for Mesothelioma

For mesothelioma patients, it is not uncomment for fluid to buildup in and around the lungs in an area known as the pleura. This fluid buildup can make it difficult to breathe.

Doctors call this fluid collection a pleural effusion. The fluid prevents the lung from being able to expand fully when the patient takes a breath. Therefore, as it builds up, the collected fluid will cause shortness of breath.

There is a type of surgical treatment that can stop fluid buildup and relieve the symptoms of pleural effusion. This type of treatment is called pleurodesis and it works by closing the space between pleura with talc or an antibiotic. The talc or antibiotic, whichever the doctor decides to use, will effectively irritate the pleura, causing them to stick together and close the gap. Without the gap, there is nowhere for fluid to collect.

Pleurodesis is often performed as an outpatient procedure, but this depends on the general health of the patient. Some patients who undergo pleurodesis have to be admitted to the hospital and remain overnight, especially if there is a lot of fluid. The more fluid there is, the longer it will take to drain off.

Pleurodesis Is Not a Cancer Treatment

While pleurodesis does not treat cancer, it alleviates one of its most severe symptoms, which is difficulty breathing due to pleural effusion. If you are a mesothelioma patient suffering from breathlessness, talk to your doctor about pleurodesis surgery.

Two Ways to Perform the Procedure

There are two main types of pleurodesis procedures –

  • Thoracoscopic Tal Pleurodesis
  • Bedside Talc Slurry Pleurodesis

With the former, a patient undergoes general anesthesia and the surgeon collapses the lung in order to access the pleural cavity to drain the fluid. With the latter, a chest drain is inserted at the bedside via local anesthetic.

Pros and Cons of Pleurodesis

As with any procedure, there are possible risks and possible rewards.

Pleurodesis Pros

  • All the pleural fluid can be removed
  • The lung can expand again
  • The patient will be able to breath more freely
  • Mitigates the risk of fluid buildup returning
  • Patient will not have to go back to the hospital for pleural taps

Pleurodesis Cons

  • Some pleurodesis procedures can cause air leaks in the lungs
  • Patient might experience pain after the procedure
  • In some cases, the lung does not re-expand
  • Patients might contract an infection

Doctors also do not usually recommend pleurodesis for patients who are also taking blood-thinning drugs like aspirin, warfarin, Plavix, and certain arthritis drugs.