The minimum volume of pleural fluid required to diagnose malignant pleural effusion: A retrospective study

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Lung India








Cytology; malignant; pleural effusion


© 2017 Indian Chest Society. Background: Pleural fluid cytology is a quick and accurate method to diagnose malignant pleural effusions. The optimal volume of fluid for cytological analysis has not yet been identified, and clinical recommendation based on some published clinical experiences has been to send large volumes of fluid for cytological analysis. A quality improvement initiative at our institution was conducted to determine the volume of fluid sufficient for a diagnosis of malignant pleural effusion. Materials and Methods: The study was approved by the Institutional Review Board. All pleural fluid specimens that were divided into three volumes (25 mL, 50 mL, and 150 mL) and sent for cytological examination were reviewed. Results: A total of 74 samples from 60 individual patients were evaluable. Thirty-six patients (60%) had a previous diagnosis of malignancy. Of the 74 specimens, 26 (35.1%) were positive for malignancy. The detection rate for malignant pleural effusion by cytology for 25 mL, 50 mL, and 150 mL were 88.5%, 96.2%, and 100.0%, respectively (P = 0.16). Two specimens that were negative in the 25 mL samples turned out to be positive in the 50 mL and 150 mL samples. One specimen was negative in the 25 mL and 50 mL samples but positive in the 150 mL sample. Conclusions: Our study did not show any statistically significant difference in the detection of malignant effusion in the 25 mL, 50 mL, and 150 mL group.

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