Pleural Effusion

Pleural Effusion
Pleural Effusion

Overview Of Pleural Effusion

Pleural Effusion is the buildup of fluid between the layers of tissue that line the lungs and chest cavity.

Commonly Associated With

Pleural fluid; Fluid in the chest; Fluid on the lung

Causes Of Pleural Effusion

The body produces small quantities of plueral fluid to lubricate the surfaces of the pleura. This is the thin tissue that surrounds the lungs and lines the chest cavity. The abnormal, excessive collection of this fluid causes pleural effusion.

The types of pleural effusion are:

  • Fluid leaking into the pleural space following low blood protein count or an increase of pressure in the blood vessels causes transudative pleural effusion. Heart failure is the main cause of this type of pleural effusion.
  • Blocked blood vessels, lung injury, inflammation, infection and tumors cause exudative effusion.

Risk factors of pleural effusion include:

Symptoms Of Pleural Effusion

Symptoms can include:

  • Chest pain
  • Cough
  • Rapid breathing
  • Fever and chills
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hiccups

Sometimes there are no symptoms.

Exams & Tests

Your health care provider will inquire about your symptoms and listen to your lungs with a stethoscope and tap (percuss) your upper back and chest.

A Chest CT scan or a chest x-ray will allow your provider to settle on treatment for this condition.

Your provider may also perform tests on the fluid to look for:

  • Infection
  • Protein levels
  • Cancer cells

The sample of fluid is removed with a needle inserted between the ribs. Tests on the fluid will be done to look for.

Blood tests include:

  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Kidney and liver function blood tests

Other tests include:

  • Ultrasound of the heart (echocardiogram)
  • Ultrasound of abdomen and liver
  • Lung biopsy to look for cancer
  • Urine protein testing
  • Passing a tube through the windpipe to check the airways for cancer problems (bronchoscopy)

Treatment Of Pleural Effusion

The goal of treatment is to:

  • Remove the fluid
  • Prevent future build up
  • Determine and treat the cause of fluid buildup

Removing the fluid (thoracentesis) may be necessary when it causes chest pressure, shortness of breath, or a low oxygen level. This allows the lung to expand, making breathing easier.

The cause of the fluid buildup must be treated:

  • If it is due to heart failure. You may receive diuretics (water pills) and other medication to treat heart failure.
  • If it is due to an infection, antibiotics will be given.
  • In people with cancer or an infection, the effusion is treated by using a chest tube to drain the fluid.

In some cases, any of the following treatments are options:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Placing medicine into the chest to prevents fluid from building up again
  • Surgery