Pleural Effusion


What is pleural effusion?

Pleural effusion is an accumulation of fluid around the lungs. Heart failure is the commonest cause of this problem. Moreover, the pleural effusion can be caused by an infection, cancer or other health problem.

What are the symptoms of pleural effusion?

Symptoms may include the following:

  • Chest pain. It can be sharp and it usually worsens with coughing or deep breathing. Sometimes it can have a dull character.
  • Breathing disorders. May include increased respiratory rate or difficulty breathing
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Hiccup

Do I need to have any lab tests?

Yes. The tests for the investigation of pleural effusion may include:

  • Chest X-ray
  • Computed tomography of chest
  • Ultrasound. By using sound waves to create images of the human body, your doctor can determine whether there is any pleural effusion and thus aspirate the fluid.
  • Pleural fluid aspiration.

What is the treatment of pleural effusion?

Treatment depends on symptoms and the cause of the problem. If you have dyspnea, your doctor may remove some amount of fluid that has collected around the lungs using a needle and plastic bag. If the cause of pleural effusion is heart failure, your doctor may prescribe diuretics, which assist the removal of fluid gathered around the lungs. Additionally, it might be necessary to receive additional treatment for heart failure. If an infection is the cause of pleural effusion, your doctor may recommend antibiotics. Additionally, your doctor may drain the pleural effusion with a plastic tube, if this is needed. The tube is usually removed after a few days. If the problem is caused by cancer, tube placement is again possible. In this case though, removal of the tube can be done after a longer period, eg after a few weeks. At the same time, the patient can undergo chemotherapy.

Moreover, it may be necessary to proceed to pleural biopsy, during which a small piece of the tissue that surrounds the lungs is excised. This is done in order to clarify the reasons for pleural effusion accumulation. During surgical biopsy, your doctor can put powder around the lungs, in order to limit the space in which the fluid is developed, and therefore help you prevent develop pleural effusion in the future.
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