Pleural Effusion

Pleural effusion is an unusual amount of fluid around the lung.

The pleura is a thin membrane that lines the surface of your lungs and the inside of your chest wall. When you have a pleural effusion, fluid builds up in the space between the layers of your pleura.

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain, especially when breathing in deeply (This is called pleurisy or pleuritic pain.)
  • Fever
  • Cough

A wide range of things can cause a pleural effusion. Some of the more common ones are:

  • Dysfunction of other organs - This usually happens if you have congestive heart failure, when your heart doesn't pump blood to your body properly. But it can also come from liver or kidney disease, when fluid builds up in your body and leaks into the pleural space.
  • Cancer - Usually lung cancer is the problem, but other cancers that have spread to the lung or pleura can cause it, too.
  • Infections - Some illnesses that lead to pleural effusion are pneumonia or tuberculosis.
  • Autoimmune conditions - Lupus or rheumatoid arthritis are some diseases that can cause it.
  • Pulmonary embolism - This is a blockage in an artery in one of your lungs, and it can lead to pleural effusion.

How is it diagnosed?

  • Chest X ray
  • USG thorax
  • CT chest
  • Thoracocentesis


  • Transudative - This pleural effusion fluid is similar to the fluid you normally have in your pleural space. It forms from liquid leaking across normal pleura. This type rarely needs to be drained unless it's very large. Congestive heart failure is the most common cause of this type.
  • Exudative - This forms from extra liquid, protein, blood, inflammatory cells or sometimes bacteria that leak across damaged blood vessels into the pleura. You may need to get it drained, depending on its size and how much inflammation there is. The causes of this type include pneumonia and lung cancer.
Pleural Effusion


How is it treated?

Antibiotics for pneumonia, for instance, or diuretics for congestive heart failure.

Large, infected, or inflamed pleural effusions often need to get drained to help you feel better and prevent more problems.

Procedures for treating pleural effusions include:

If the effusion is large, Pleural fluid need for testing, also therapeutic just to ease your symptoms.

Doctor makes a small cut in your chest wall and puts a plastic tube (ICDT) into your pleural space for several days.

If your pleural effusions keep coming back, a long-term catheter through your skin into the pleural space.

Doctor injects an irritating substance (such as talc or doxycycline) through a chest tube into the pleural space. The substance inflames the pleura and chest wall, which then bind tightly to each other as they heal. Pleurodesis can prevent pleural effusions from coming back in many cases.

Surgeons can operate inside the pleural space, removing potentially dangerous inflammation and unhealthy tissue. To do this, your surgeon may make small cuts (thoracoscopy) or a large one (thoracotomy).

Consult with experienced Doctors

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