Talc (Intrapleural)

In patients who have had excess fluid removed from the lungs, talc can be sprayed into the area around the lungs to prevent a build up from recurring.


Talc is sprayed into the area around the lungs in patients who have suffered from a build up of fluid in this area. Once the fluid has been removed from the lung cavity, the talc is sprayed in through a tube placed through the chest to prevent the problem from returning in the future.

Talc used in this manner is part of a group of medication called sclerosing agents. The talc, once inserted in the chest cavity, causes irritation of the cavity. This irritation causes it to close up and in doing removes any available space in which the fluid could accrue. This is an irreversible treatment that will cause the chest cavity to remain closed in perpetuity.

While talc is common as an ingredient in dusting powders for the feet and body, this is a specially prepared talc. The talc used for the prevention of fluid build up in the lungs has been sterilized and is specially graded for the purpose.

This medication can only be administered by a doctor in a hospital and is available as either a powder of a spray.

Side effects from the use of talc are minimal and usually relate to the surgery carried out around the treatment. In some cases however medical attention may be required. Any side effects experienced should be reported to the doctor immediately so he can asses the condition of the patient.

Condition treated

  • Fluid build-up in the lungs

Type of medicine

  • Sclerosing agent

Side Effects

While talc is one of the most inert substances to be found on the planet, the use of talc within the body can still cause unwanted side effects in addition to preventing the build up of fluid around the lungs. If the following side effects occur then you will need to seek urgent medical attention:

Occurring commonly:

  • Pain in the area around the lungs

Occurring only rarely:

  • Feverishness
  • Chills
  • Coughing up blood
  • Coughing up thick mucous
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Finding blood in your spit
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing
  • General feeling of discomfort or illness

Some of these side effects can be caused by the procedures carried out at the same time as the use of the talc, but they could also be caused by the talc itself. Inform your doctor so that they can assess you and determine whether there is a need to take medical action.

A common side effect is the bleeding, swelling, soreness or pain in the skin at the point where the tube was inserted. This pain will abate as the wound heals.

Other side effects not listed herein may occur. In this case, you should inform your doctor who will be able to determine the best course of action for you to take. They may also be able to advise you on how best to alleviate any side effects that are ongoing or bothersome to you.


The dosage given of this medicine will vary depending on the patient and the specific treatment that is required. You should always follow the instructions of your doctor and the medication must always be administered by a doctor.

The following dosing information is a guideline only and your doctor will determine the dose to be given.

  • Intrapleural dosing with aerosol
    • Adults - 4 to 8g of talc sprayed into the area around the lungs. To be inserted with a special tube. This is usually 1-2 canisters.
    • Children - To be determined by the doctor.

Once the dose has been administered into the chest cavity the patient should change position frequently to allow the talc to distribute throughout the chest cavity. The doctor performing surgery will be able to instruct the patient on how to position their body for the greatest distribution of the talc. Spreading the talc evenly will ensure that the entire chest cavity is covered and this will prevent fluid build up in any area of the chest.


Certain medications should never be used at the same time as one another. In some cases, this can result in one preventing another from working and in other cases they can worsen the side effects of the other medication.

Before undergoing any medical treatment, you should inform your medical professional if you are taking any other healthcare products. This includes prescribed medicines, over the counter medicines, herbal remedies and vitamin supplements.

Other interactions can also occur with foods that you eat, tobacco use, alcohol consumption and the use of tobacco products. Discuss these habits with your doctor. For the use of talc around the lungs, the use of inhaled products will be of particular note as they may cause irritation to the lungs or may increase the risk of infection. Discuss tobacco use and the use of other inhaled substances with your healthcare professional.


Before taking any medication or undergoing any procedure you should consider the risks of doing so and weigh these against the benefits with your doctor. Before the use of this medication you should consider the following with your doctor:

Allergies - If you have ever had an allergic reaction to any medications or have reacted badly to any medicines then it is important that you inform your doctor. Allergies pertaining to dyes, preservatives, animals and other substances may also be of relevance, so be sure to share these with your doctor too.

There is a risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome when using intrapleural talc on a patient. In some cases, this can be fatal.

The use of Intrapleural talc on a patient is an irreversible procedure that can preclude or at the least complicate future ipsilateral surgery. Consider the future complications that may occur with diagnostic and therapeutic procedures before carrying out this use of sterile talc.

There is no evidence that the use of intrapleural talc will be harmful to a fetus carried by a pregnant woman. No tests have been carried out on humans, however, so caution should be taken. This procedure should only be undertaken when pregnant in cases where it is clearly needed. Where possible avoid undergoing this procedure.

This treatment should not be used where the fluid build up is due to a potentially curable disease. A cure to the problem should always be sought before the use of intrapleural talc is used.

It is not known whether a second sclerosing agent would be less effective after talc has been administered.

Overdose has not been reported in the use of talc.


Sterile Talc is supplied as a single-use dose. Once opened, sterility will be compromised and any remaining talc should be disposed of.

Aerosol canisters are under pressure and must not be punctured.

Keep out of direct light at all times.

Store between 20- 25°C.

Avoid freezing.

Shake well before use.


Intrapleural talc is used to cause a contraction of the chest cavity. This procedure is carried out in patients when there has been a build-up of liquid in the chest cavity.

By inserting talc into the chest cavity, an irritation is caused that will make the chest cavity tighten. This closes the area in which liquid could build up and in doing so prevents it from occurring again.

This procedure is permanent and will potentially hamper future diagnosis and treatment of conditions within the chest cavity. Before administration, this should be considered.

Intrapleural talc should only be used in cases where the cause of the fluid buildup cannot be treated. If the cause is a treatable disease then this should be the first step in preventing it from occurring.

The talc used in intrapleural talc administration is not the normal talc that is well known as a dusting powder for use on the feet and body. The talc used in this procedure is a special sterilized powder that has an off-white coloring.

There are few side effects to the use of intrapleural talc and most of the side effects that do occur relate to the surgery that is performed around this treatment. In cases where side effects occur, however, this may indicate a need for medical intervention.

Once the talc has been administered to the chest cavity, the patient should reposition themselves regularly to allow the talc to be distributed throughout the chest cavity. Doing so will ensure that the entire cavity is closed and the build-up of fluid cannot occur.

Last Reviewed:
December 25, 2017
Last Updated:
April 05, 2018
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