Palliative surgeries are primarily used to relieve pain or discomfort in patients with advanced mesothelioma.

Surgical Options That Improve Quality of Life

There are palliative surgical options for each type of mesothelioma (pleural, peritoneal, pericardial). Surgery for pain relief is most commonly used in patients with an advanced diagnosis. However, it is an option for all stages of mesothelioma. Find a mesothelioma specialist who can provide these pain relief options.

Types of Palliative Surgeries

  • Pleurodesis Icon


    Used to relieve pain in pleural mesothelioma patients by closing the pleural space and stopping painful fluid buildup

  • Thoracentesis Icon


    Used to relieve pain in pleural mesothelioma patients and less invasive than pleurodesis, this procedure drains fluid from the pleural space but fluid may return.

  • Paracentesis Icon


    Used to relieve pain in peritoneal mesothelioma patients by draining fluid buildup from the peritoneal cavity

  • Pericardiocentesis Icon


    Used to relieve pain in pericardial mesothelioma patients by draining fluid buildup from the pericardial sac, although the fluid may return

Improving Prognosis With Palliative Treatment

Early stage patients who undergo palliative surgeries may have a better predisposition to focus on treatments and life instead of pain. It may also allow patients to feel healthier, improving breathing or cardiac function for example. In fact, benefits of palliative care for early stage patients may be greater than previously thought.

A study in The New England Journal of Medicine in patients with metastatic lung cancer has shown that those receiving palliative care early in their diagnosis demonstrated longer life expectancies.

These patients also reported a better quality of life after having a palliative surgery in addition to experiencing an improved prognosis.


Pleurodesis is a procedure that closes up the pleural space and limits fluid buildups. One of the most common symptoms of pleural mesothelioma is pleural effusion, a fluid buildup in the pleura surrounding the lungs. It’s a painful condition that causes discomfort during breathing.

Pleurodesis effectively “glues” the two layers of the pleura (visceral and parietal) together, preventing fluid from building up. Chemical/medical adhesives are inserted into the space between the pleura causing the two layers to become one.

Pleurodesis may be performed by means of a thoracotomy or a thoracoscopy. A thoracotomy is procedure to open the patient’s chest, providing direct access to the lung, while the latter is less invasive, using small incisions and a camera to see the lung.


Mesothelioma Thoracentesis Palliative ProcessThoracentesis is a procedure used to drain fluid buildup in the lungs. These fluid buildups are called effusions and can be painful. Unlike that pleurodesis, this surgery does not seal the pleural space.

Patients may experience this type of pain because their lungs cannot expand all the way, making it difficult to breathe. A needle is inserted into the lung cavity and the fluid is drained to ease the pain that pleural effusions cause. This procedure is usually performed using local anesthesia and may require repeat visits for additional fluid draining.

This procedure is more likely to be used in patients with advanced mesothelioma than a pleurodesis. This is because the thoracentesis is less physically demanding on the patient.


A paracentesis is used for patients with peritoneal mesothelioma. This is a process that drains fluid buildup from the abdominal area. These fluid buildups are called ascites.

Ascites causes moderate to severe stomach pains, similar to gas cramps and worse than a stomachache. Patients receive local anesthesia during the procedure. A needle is inserted into the abdominal area and the fluid is drained. Patients may have to take part in multiple rounds of paracentesis because the fluid buildup may return.


During a pericardiocentesis, patients have fluid drained from their pericardium (sac that envelopes the heart). Fluid is removed from the pericardium through a needle that is inserted into the chest cavity. Patients who receive a pericardiocentesis receive local anesthesia. Prior to receiving a pericardiocentesis, patients may experience chest pains from their heart not being able to pump at full function.

Which Palliative Option Is Right For You?

The palliative surgical option that is right for the patient largely depends on the patient’s type of mesothelioma. Most of these palliative options involve draining fluid buildup in the patient’s respective mesothelium. For pleural mesothelioma patients, their options also depend on the stage of their mesothelioma.

Palliative care is one of the best ways a patient can improve their quality of life. This means less frustration and depression among many patients. Some studies are even demonstrating a survival benefit in patients taking advantage of palliative care early in their diagnosis.

Learn more about palliative care in our free Mesothelioma Guide.

Common Questions About Palliative Surgery for Mesothelioma

How does palliative surgery help mesothelioma patients?

Palliative surgeries can reduce pain for people with mesothelioma. Most of these operations reduce symptoms and their associated discomfort, such as fluid buildup and pressure against the lungs or chest. Palliative care improves quality of life, especially as mesothelioma symptoms become severe.

What palliative surgeries are available for mesothelioma?

The four palliative surgeries are:

  • Pleurodesis — Closes the pleura to stop fluid buildup
  • Thoracentesis — Drains fluid from the pleura to alleviate pressure
  • Paracentesis — Drains fluid from the peritoneum to reduce pressure
  • Pericardiocentesis — Drains fluid from the pericardium to decrease pressure

Which mesothelioma patients should consider palliative surgery?

Palliative surgery is an option for all mesothelioma patients regardless of their cancer stage. However, patients in the late stages should prioritize palliative care as their symptoms are likely worsening quicker. Palliative surgeries can improve quality of life for patients in the end stage of mesothelioma.