top of page

What is an indwelling tunneled pleural catheter (IPC)?

An indewelling tunneled plerual catheter is a soft flexible silicon tube (that is thinner than a pencil), which remains inside the chest and passes out (“tunneling”) through the skin.

Indwelling catheters are designed to be a permanent solution to the problem of pleural fluid (although they can be removed if they are no longer needed). It is designed to drain fluid from around your lungs easily and painlessly whenever it is needed. It avoids the need for repeated painful injections and insertion/removal of chest tubes every time fluid needs to be drained.

Happy man with healthy lungs

Why has an indwelling tunneled pleural catheter been suggested?

The pleural space consists of two thin membranes: one lining the lung and the other lining the chest wall. This space is usually dry. In your case fluid is regularly collecting here, stopping your lungs from working properly, making you short of breath. 

To prevent repeated trips to hospital the indwelling catheter is a way of allowing fluid to be repeatedly drained at home in a more convenient location.

What happens during this procedure?

The insertion of a tunneled pleural catheter is performed by one or our specialists.

You will be asked to either sit or lie in a comfortable position before the procedure. An ultrasound scan of your chest will be done to establish a suitable position for the drain. This is completely painless.

Once you are resting comfortably, the skin will be cleaned with an alcohol fluid. A local anaesthetic is then injected into the skin to numb the area where the catheter will go. This can feel mildly uncomfortable, but this pain passes off quickly. Your doctor will then make two small cuts in the numb areas of skin and create a path for the catheter. This should not be painful although you may feel some pressure or tugging. One cut is for the catheter to pass through the skin, and the second is for it to be passed into the chest. The indwelling catheter is then gently positioned into the chest. The two skin incisions are then closed with sutures. Self-adhesive water resistant dressings are then applied to the skin incision sites. The sutures can be removed after 7 days

Safety considerations

An indwelling catheter is generally considered a safe and well-tolerated procedure. Your doctor will review the specific safety considerations with you before the procedure.

bottom of page