As if cancer and cancer treatment weren’t enough, patients with lung
or breast cancer, lymphoma or leukemia may develop pleural effusion. Simply
stated, pleural effusion is a buildup of fluid around the pleura, the
membrane covering the chest cavity and lungs. While it’s normal
for spaces between the pleura to contain some fluid, too much creates
breathing difficulties and chest discomfort. There are several ways to
manage this condition, but according to Rafael Alba Yunen, M.D., the most
effective is the PleurX catheter. Alba Yunen is a board-eligible pulmonologist
with Southeast Georgia Physician Associates-Pulmonary Medicine in Brunswick,
a strategic affiliate of Southeast Georgia Health System. He treats lung
diseases and conditions, including pleural effusion. During fellowship
training at New York City’s Mount Sinai Hospital and University
of Tennessee Medical Center, Alba Yunen successfully performed nearly
50 PleurX procedures. While the PleurX catheter drainage system has been
used since 1997, it is relatively new to the Health System.
An Outpatient Option
To place the catheter, a thin, flexible tube is inserted into the pleural
area of the chest through a small incision. “To ensure patient safety,
we use a real-time thoracic (chest) ultrasound to guide catheter placement,”
explains Alba Yunen. An outpatient procedure, catheter place is done using
a local anesthetic.
Candidates and Contraindications
Though the PleurX catheter is typically used for cancer patients, it also
helps patients whose pleural effusion didn’t result from cancer.
The catheters are also used in patients with abdominal fluid buildup.
The catheter is not recommended for patients with infected fluid, pockets
of fluid that are not free-flowing, severe bleeding disorders or chylous
The PleurX catheter is connected to a vacuum bottle. The patient controls
fluid collection by opening a valve attached to the catheter. Generally,
patients must drain the fluid every one or two days. The catheter stays
in place until the fluid buildup subsides. “This allows the patient
to manage fluid buildup at home. By keeping them out of the hospital,
we reduce treatment time and the cost of care,” says Alba Yunen.
Pros and Cons
“Like every interventional medicine procedure, nothing comes without
risk. Fortunately, the risks associated with PleurX are minimal and complications
are few,” Alba Yunen says.
Potential risks include blockage, infection and bleeding. However, those
complications are unlikely since patients receive instruction, drainage
supplies and support from a team of specialists.
“PleurX helps eliminate the need for repeated invasive procedures
to remove fluid, which can lead to a collapsed lung. It’s preferred
over other treatment options, including surgery and pleurodesis, which
obliterates the pleural space,” says Alba Yunen, adding, “It’s
been a proven solution for nearly half a million patients since 1997,
and has been referenced in more than 50 peer-reviewed articles.”
To learn more about the PleurX catheter or to schedule an appointment
with Alba Yunen, call the Brunswick office of Southeast Georgia Physician
Associates-Pulmonary Medicine at 912-466-5504.