The pleural effusion and symptom evaluation (PLEASE) study of breathlessness in patients with a symptomatic pleural effusion

Sanjeevan Muruganandan, Maree Azzopardi, Rajesh Thomas, Deirdre B. Fitzgerald, Yi Jin Kuok, Hui Min Cheah, Catherine A. Read, Charley A. Budgeon, Peter R. Eastwood, Susan Jenkins, Bhajan Singh, Kevin Murray, Y.C. Gary Lee

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19 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Pathophysiology changes associated with pleural effusion, its drainage and factors governing symptom response are poorly understood. Our objective was to determine: 1) the effect of pleural effusion (and its drainage) on cardiorespiratory, functional and diaphragmatic parameters; and 2) the proportion as well as characteristics of patients with breathlessness relief post-drainage. Methods: Prospectively enrolled patients with symptomatic pleural effusions were assessed at both pretherapeutic drainage and at 24-36 h post-therapeutic drainage. Results: 145 participants completed pre-drainage and post-drainage tests; 93% had effusions ≥25% of hemithorax. The median volume drained was 1.68 L. Breathlessness scores improved post-drainage (mean visual analogue scale (VAS) score by 28.0±24 mm; dyspnoea-12 (D12) score by 10.5±8.8; resting Borg score before 6-min walk test (6-MWT) by 0.6±1.7; all p<0.0001). The 6-min walk distance (6-MWD) increased by 29.7±73.5 m, p<0.0001. Improvements in vital signs and spirometry were modest (forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1) by 0.22L, 95% CI 0.18-0.27; forced vital capacity (FVC) by 0.30 L, 95% CI 0.24-0.37). The ipsilateral hemi-diaphragm was flattened/everted in 50% of participants pre-drainage and 48% of participants exhibited paradoxical or no diaphragmatic movement. Post-drainage, hemi-diaphragm shape and movement were normal in 94% and 73% of participants, respectively. Drainage provided meaningful breathlessness relief (VAS score improved ≥14 mm) in 73% of participants irrespective of whether the lung expanded (mean difference 0.14, 95% CI 10.02-0.29; p=0.13). Multivariate analyses found that breathlessness relief was associated with significant breathlessness pre-drainage (odds ratio (OR) 5.83 per standard deviation (SD) decrease), baseline abnormal/paralyzed/paradoxical diaphragm movement (OR 4.37), benign aetiology (OR 3.39), higher pleural pH (OR per SD increase 1.92) and higher serum albumin level (OR per SD increase 1.73). Conclusions: Breathlessness and exercise tolerance improved in most patients with only a small mean improvement in spirometry and no change in oxygenation. Breathlessness improvement was similar in participants with and without trapped lung. Abnormal hemi-diaphragm shape and movement were independently associated with relief of breathlessness post-drainage.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1900980
Number of pages15
JournalEuropean Respiratory Journal
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Pleural
  • Effusion
  • Symptom
  • Evaluation
  • breathlessness
  • symptomatic


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