Treating pleural effusion

It’s common in mesothelioma to get a build-up of fluid in your chest called pleural effusion.

The fluid can be removed on a regular basis, but it can become more and more difficult to make this work. So other options are sometimes used:


Your doctors might try to stop the fluid building up with a procedure called pleurodesis. This involves draining off the fluid that’s there and then injecting sterile talcum powder into the pleural space between the two layers of your chest lining. This causes the two layers to stick together so there’s nowhere for fluid to build up again.

A pleurodesis can be performed in different ways. Sometimes a thin plastic tube called a chest drain is inserted into the pleural space around your lungs to allow the fluid to drain away. Before the drain is inserted, your skin is numbed with local anaesthetic. Once the fluid has been removed, talcum powder is put down the drain into the pleural space. A day or two later the drain is removed.

The other way to perform a pleurodesis is to put talcum powder in during a thoracoscopy procedure.

Indwelling pleural catheter

If a pleurodesis fails to control the build-up of fluid, a tube can be inserted into your chest through the skin, and left in place so that fluid can be drained off as and when needed. This avoids the need for you to be admitted into hospital repeatedly for procedures to insert tubes.

Other treatments for mesothelioma:

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Last medically reviewed: November 2017. Due for review: November 2020

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.