|Other encyclopedia topics:||A-Ag Ah-Ap Aq-Az B-Bk Bl-Bz C-Cg Ch-Co Cp-Cz D-Di Dj-Dz E-Ep Eq-Ez F G H-Hf Hg-Hz I-In Io-Iz J K L-Ln Lo-Lz M-Mf Mg-Mz N O P-Pl Pm-Pz Q R S-Sh Si-Sp Sq-Sz T-Tn To-Tz U V W X Y Z 0-9|
|Contents of this page:|
Alternative Names Return to topFluid in the chest; Fluid on the lung; Pleural fluid
Definition Return to top
A pleural effusion is an accumulation of fluid between the layers of tissue that line the lungs and chest cavity.
Causes Return to top
Your body produces pleural fluid in small amounts to lubricate the surfaces of the pleura, the thin tissue that lines the chest cavity and surrounds the lungs. A pleural effusion is an abnormal, excessive collection of this fluid.
Two different types of effusions can develop:
Symptoms Return to top
Sometimes there are no symptoms.
Exams and Tests Return to top
During a physical examination, the doctor will listen to the sound of your breathing with a stethoscope and may tap on your chest to listen for dullness.
The following tests may help to confirm a diagnosis:
Treatment Return to top
Treatment may be directed at removing the fluid, preventing it from accumulating again, or addressing the underlying cause of the fluid buildup.
Therapeutic thoracentesis may be done if the fluid collection is large and causing pressure, shortness of breath, or other breathing problems, such as low oxygen levels. Removing the fluid allows the lung to expand, making breathing easier. Treating the underlying cause of the effusion then becomes the goal.
For example, pleural effusions caused by congestive heart failure are treated with diuretics (water pills) and other medications that treat heart failure. Pleural effusions caused by infection are treated with appropriate antibiotics. In people with cancer or infections, the effusion is often treated by using a chest tube for several days to drain the fluid. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, or instilling medication into the chest that prevents re-accumulation of fluid after drainage may be used in some cases.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
The expected outcome depends upon the underlying disease.
Possible Complications Return to top
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of pleural effusion.
Call your provider or go to the emergency room if shortness of breath or difficulty breathing occurs immediately after thoracentesis.Update Date: 8/29/2008 Updated by: Sean O. Stitham, MD, private practice in Internal Medicine, Seattle, WA; Benjamin Medoff, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Pulmonary and Critical Care Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.