Pleural effusion

21 June 2018
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21 June 2018, Comments: 0

Pleural effusion or fluid in the lungs is defined as significant buildup of fluid in the region.

What is the cause?

It is important to note that the pleura releases excess fluid if it is inflamed, irritated or infected. The fluid builds up in the chest cavity outside the lung which results to pleural effusion.

Other causes include:

  • Cirrhosis or poor liver function
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Pneumonia
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Complications from open-heart surgery
  • Autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus

    Pleural effusion

    It is important to note that the pleura releases excess fluid if it is inflamed, irritated or infected.

  • Severe kidney disease

What are the indications?

There are cases in which there are no signs. In such cases, the condition is detected via a chest X-ray or physical exam for other purposes.

The common signs of pleural effusion include:

  • Dry cough
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing while lying down
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Persistent hiccups
  • Difficulty taking deep breaths
  • Difficulty during physical activities

A doctor must be seen right away if any of these are present.

Management of pleural effusion

The root cause of the condition and its seriousness are taken into consideration in choosing the appropriate treatment.


Essentially, the treatment involves drainage of the fluid from the chest cavity with a needle or a small tube inserted into the chest.

A local anesthetic is given prior to the procedure to make the treatment comfortable.


This is a treatment that creates minor inflammation amidst the lung and pleura. After the removal of the excess fluid from the chest cavity, a drug is injected into the site which is often a talc mixture. This causes the 2 layers of the pleura to adhere together which prevents the buildup of fluid in the future.


In severe cases of pleural effusion, the doctor surgically inserts a shunt or small-sized tube into the chest cavity. This helps in redirecting the fluid from the chest into the abdomen where it is easily eliminated by the body.

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