Pleural Catheters Don’t Appear to Promote Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma patients often have a pleural catheter inserted during an initial visit with their doctor. You yourself may have received one of these.

The catheter typically is needed to drain fluid that builds up in the lungs as a result of mesothelioma. This fluid is what causes many people to seek a doctor’s help before they even know they have mesothelioma.

The catheters usually do a good job of allowing the fluid to drain out. This provides substantial relief and improves patient comfort. But there has always been a worry associated with their use.

Specifically, the catheters remain inserted a long time. We’re talking months, usually. For that reason, some doctors wonder if having a pleural catheter can help mesothelioma spread.

Evidently not, according to findings published in the journal Respirology. Researchers from three centers in Perth, Australia, looked into this and found no indication that indwelling pleural catheters promote tumor growth.

Research Done on Indwelling Pleural Catheters

The researchers are affiliated with Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, University of Western Australia & Institute for Respiratory Research and Queen Elizabeth II Medical Centre. The title of their article is “Histopathology of Removed Indwelling Pleural Catheters from Patients with Malignant Pleural Diseases.”

According to the researchers, indwelling pleural catheters are used for draining fluids produced by mesothelioma and other cancers. The fluids are formally known as pleural effusions.

The catheters used for this purpose are made of flexible silicone. They are inserted by means of an under-the-skin tunneling technique.

This technique is used so that the catheter will stay put. This then allows patients to move about freely, without the risk of the tube slipping out of position in the course of routine activity.

But it also means the tube will remain in place for potentially many months, the researchers indicated. The tube is ordinarily removed only when there is no longer any fluid being produced.

The effect long-term insertion has on mesothelioma is something that has not been previously studied, say the researchers. As a result and up until now, no one could really say whether these devices promoted disease progression.

“Our study provides reassuring evidence that the [catheters do] not support direct tumour growth or invasion even in the setting of high mesothelioma prevalence,” they wrote.

Mesothelioma Can Invade Puncture Sites

The researchers arrived at their finding by examining 41 patients who had received an indwelling pleural catheter for treatment of pleural effusions. The median number of days that these patients had their catheters in place was 126.

Not all had mesothelioma, however. Twenty-three of them had breast cancer, tubo-ovarian cancer or a lung carcinoma. Still, taken as a whole, mesothelioma was the predominant form of cancer among them.

The researchers noted that mesothelioma is “notorious for its predilection to invade pleural puncture sites, and needle tract metastases are recognized complications even after one-off pleural interventions.”

This prompted them to also investigate that aspect of indwelling pleural catheter use. The researchers concluded that the risk is present, but among the study patients puncture site invasion did not occur.

Obviously, more study is needed to confirm these findings. But they do at least offer tentative good news for mesothelioma patients and doctors concerned about the potential of indwelling pleural catheters to help the spread of mesothelioma tumors.