Learn About Pleural Effusion

What is the definition of Pleural Effusion?

A pleural effusion is a buildup of fluid between the layers of tissue that line the lungs and chest cavity.

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What are the alternative names for Pleural Effusion?

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

What are the causes of Pleural Effusion?

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

There are two types of pleural effusion:

  • Transudative pleural effusion is caused by fluid leaking into the pleural space. This is from increased pressure in the blood vessels or a low blood protein count. Heart failure is the most common cause.
  • Exudative effusion is caused by blocked blood vessels or lymph vessels, inflammation, infection, lung injury, and tumors.

Risk factors of pleural effusion may include:

  • Smoking and drinking alcohol, as these can cause heart, lung and liver disease, which can lead to pleural effusion
  • History of any contact with asbestos
What are the symptoms of Pleural Effusion?

Symptoms can include any of the following:

  • Chest pain, usually a sharp pain that is worse with cough or deep breaths
  • Cough
  • Fever and chills
  • Hiccups
  • Rapid breathing
  • Shortness of breath

Sometimes there are no symptoms.

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What are the current treatments for Pleural Effusion?

The goal of treatment is to:

  • Remove the fluid
  • Prevent fluid from building up again
  • Determine and treat the cause of the fluid buildup

Removing the fluid (thoracentesis) may be done if there is a lot of fluid and it is causing chest pressure, shortness of breath, or a low oxygen level. Removing the fluid allows the lung to expand, making breathing easier.

The cause of the fluid buildup must also be treated:

  • If it is due to heart failure, you may receive diuretics (water pills) and other medicines to treat heart failure.
  • If it is due to an infection, antibiotics will be given.
  • If it is from cancer, liver disease, or kidney disease, treatment should be directed at these conditions.

In people with cancer or infection, the effusion is often treated by using a chest tube to drain the fluid and treating its cause.

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

  • Chemotherapy
  • Placing medicine into the chest that prevents fluid from building up again after it is drained
  • Radiation therapy
  • Surgery
Who are the top Pleural Effusion Local Doctors?
Highly rated in
Pulmonary Medicine
Intensive Care Medicine

Duke Health

Duke Cancer Center

20 Duke Medicine Cir 
Durham, NC 27710

Momen Wahidi is a Pulmonary Medicine specialist and an Intensive Care Medicine doctor in Durham, North Carolina. Dr. Wahidi has been practicing medicine for over 30 years and is rated as an Elite doctor by MediFind in the treatment of Pleural Effusion. He is also highly rated in 13 other conditions, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are Pleural Effusion, Lung Cancer, Lung Nodules, and Emphysema. He is licensed to treat patients in North Carolina. Dr. Wahidi is currently accepting new patients.

Highly rated in

British Thoracic Society

Oxford, GB 

Najib Rahman is in Oxford, United Kingdom. Rahman is rated as an Elite expert by MediFind in the treatment of Pleural Effusion. He is also highly rated in 12 other conditions, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are Pleural Effusion, Malignant Mesothelioma, Pleurisy, and Collapsed Lung.

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Highly rated in

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Respiratory Medicine Department 
Plymouth, ENG, GB 

Maged Hassan is in Plymouth, United Kingdom. Hassan is rated as an Elite expert by MediFind in the treatment of Pleural Effusion. He is also highly rated in 5 other conditions, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are Pleural Effusion, Empyema, Lymphangitis, and Malignant Mesothelioma.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Pleural Effusion?

The outcome depends on the underlying disease.

What are the possible complications of Pleural Effusion?

Complications of pleural effusion may include:

  • Lung damage
  • Infection that turns into an abscess, called an empyema
  • Air in the chest cavity (pneumothorax) after drainage of the effusion
  • Pleural thickening (scarring of the lining of the lung)
When should I contact a medical professional for Pleural Effusion?

Call your provider or go to the emergency room if you have:

  • Symptoms of pleural effusion
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing right after thoracentesis
Respiratory system
Pleural cavity
What are the latest Pleural Effusion Clinical Trials?
Phase I Study of Intra-pleural Administration of GL-ONC1, a Genetically Modified Vaccinia Virus, in Patients With Malignant Pleural Effusion: Primary, Metastases and Mesothelioma
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A Phase Ib/II Study of Intrapleural Administration of Bevacizumab and Camrelizumab for Patients With Malignant Pleural Effusion
What are the Latest Advances for Pleural Effusion?
Interventional closure of a bronchopleural fistula in a 2 year old child with detachable coils.
Efficacy of smoking cessation intervention delivered through mobile tele-counseling among smokers with tuberculosis in a Revised National Tuberculosis Control Program.
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Short-term complications after transanal total mesorectal excision for mid-low rectal cancer.
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date : August 03, 2020
Published By : Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, MHS, Paul F. Harron, Jr. Associate Professor of Medicine, Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Blok BK. Thoracentesis. In: Roberts JR, Custalow CB, Thomsen TW, eds. Roberts and Hedges' Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine and Acute Care. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 9.

Broaddus VC, Light RW. Pleural effusion. In: Broaddus VC, Mason RJ, Ernst JD, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 79.

McCool FD. Diseases of the diaphragm, chest wall, pleura and mediastinum. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 92.