Respiratory Medicine

Pleural Effusion

Introduction to Pleural Effusion

Lining the outside of your lungs is a thin, fluid filled space (pleural cavity). Normally there is a small amount of fluid to assist ventilation. It’s called pleural effusion if he amount increases.

Written by Doctify Team 27/04/2020

What is a Pleural Effusion?

Lining the outside of your lungs is a thin, fluid filled space, known as the pleural cavity. In normal individuals, there is only a small amount of fluid. This optimal amount assists ventilation. However, if the amount of fluid increases pathologically, you are said to be experiencing a pleural effusion. This condition may cause breathlessness and chest pain, depending on the severity of the effusion. Pleural effusion has a number of causes so if you are experiencing symptoms associated with pleural effusion, please see a respiratory doctor or GP.

What are the causes for a Pleural Effusion?

Pleural effusion can be caused by a number of underlying conditions. These include congestive heart failure, pneumonia, pulmonary embolism, kidney disease and liver failure.

What are the symptoms of a Pleural Effusion?

Pleural effusion may be symptomless or cause some chest pain and breathlessness. However, depending on the cause of the pleural effusion, there are likely to be several other symptoms associated with the condition. For example, if pneumonia is the underlying cause, you may also experience a fever.

How is a Pleural Effusion treated?

Treatment of pleural effusion can be categorised into those that treat the underlying cause and those that address the effusion directly. Minor pleural effusions may be left untreated, but those causing symptoms such as breathlessness may need to be drained. This involves inserting a needle into the chest wall to remove some of the fluid. If you are experiencing recurrent pleural effusions despite treatment of the underlying cause, other treatments may be considered. These include pleurodesis, where a chemical is injected into the pleural cavity to prevent fluid build-up, and the insertion of a permanent drain.

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