Published: 18 March 2021

Authors: Christopher R. Gilbert, DO, FCCP; Candice L. Wilshire, MD; Shu-Ching Chang, PhD; and Jed A. Gorden, MD, FCCP

Source: This abstract has been sourced from NZ Respiratory Research Review Issue 196


    Indwelling tunneled pleural catheters (IPCs) are used regularly for recurrent pleural effusion management. Catheter obstruction is not uncommon, often requiring intrapleural medications instillation (ie, alteplase) to restore flow. The safety profile of intrapleural medications has been reported previously; however, most studies exclude anticoagulated patients.

    Research Question

    What is the safety profile of intrapleural alteplase, dornase alfa, or both when used in patients with IPCs, including in those who may be undergoing active anticoagulation?

    Study Design and Methods

    Retrospective review of patients with previously placed IPCs from January 2009 through February 2020 undergoing intrapleural alteplase therapy. Basic demographics, laboratory studies, anticoagulation medication use, and complications were collected. Descriptive statistics were used to report demographics and outcomes. Univariate Firth’s logistic regression analyses were used to identify factors associated with complications, followed by multivariate regression analyses.


    A total of 94 patients underwent IPC placement and intrapleural instillation. The median age of patients was 66.1 years (interquartile range, 57.6-74.9 years). Intrapleural medications were administered 71 times in 30 anticoagulated patients and 172 times in 64 patients who were not anticoagulated. A total of 20 complications were identified in 18 patients, with one patient experiencing more than one complication. Five bleeding complications occurred with no significant increased risk with anticoagulation use (in 2 anticoagulated patients and 3 patients who were not anticoagulated; P = .092). Multivariate Firth’s logistic regression demonstrated that alteplase dose (P = .04) and anticoagulation use (P = .05) were associated with any complication, but were not associated with bleeding complications.


    We report a relatively low incidence of complications and, in particular, bleeding complications in patients receiving intrapleural alteplase for nondraining IPCs. Bleeding episodes occurred in five of 94 patients (5.3%) with no apparent increased risk of bleeding complication, regardless of whether receiving anticoagulation. Additional study is warranted to identify risk factors for complications, in particular bleeding complications, in this patient population.

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