Pigtail drainage in the treatment of tuberculous pleural effusions: a randomised study

Lai, Y. -F.; Chao, T. -Y.; Wang, Y. -H.; Lin, A. -S.
February 2003
Thorax;Feb2003, Vol. 58 Issue 2, p149
Academic Journal
Background: Tuberculous pleurisy can result in obvious clinical symptoms, pleural fibrosis, and pleural thickening. Some studies of tuberculous pleurisy have suggested that symptomatic improvement and minimization of sequelae can be achieved by completely draining the effusion during treatment, although the results have not been conclusive. Methods: Sixty one patients with tuberculous pleurisy were divided into two groups; 30 patients received pigtail drainage combined with antituberculosis (TB) drug treatment and 31 received only anti-TB drugs. Outcome measurements were assessed for a period of 24 weeks after treatment and included symptom scores and the incidence of residual pleural thickening (RPT). Results: Although the duration of dyspnoea was significantly shortened by the use of pigtail drainage (median 4 days (IQR 4-5) v 8 days (IQR 7-16), p < 0.001), a comparison of combined mean (SD) visual analogue scale (VAS) scores showed no significant difference between the groups after one week of treatment (57.1(33.2) v 68.5 (44.7) or at any time during the follow up period. The incidence of RPT of more than 10 mm in the group treated with pigtail drainage and anti-TB drugs was 26% compared with 28% in the group receiving drug treatment only. The incidence of RPT levels of more than 2 mm in the two groups was 50% and 51%, respectively. No statistical difference between the two groups in terms of forced vital capacity was found at the end of treatment (median (IQR) 85.5% (69- 94) of predicted v 88% (78-96) of predicted). Conclusion: The addition of pigtail drainage to an effective anti-TB regimen is not clinically relevant and does not reduce the level of RPT.


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