Pleural Effusion

Graphic of Pleural Effusion

Pleural fluid is normally formed in small amounts between the surfaces of the pleura, the thin membrane that surrounds the lungs and chest wall. A pleural effusion is an abnormal collection of this fluid. Pleural Effusion can be caused by disease of the lung or heart or as well as diseases in other organs such as the liver or kidneys.

What are the Symptoms of Pleural Effusion?

The symptoms of pleural effusion can be very non-specific. Symptoms can include shortness of breath, chest pain, cough, hiccups, rapid breathing, abdominal pain, and joint stiffness. It can be detected by listening to the chest with a stethoscope, which reveals decreased breath sounds.

How is Pleural Effusion Diagnosed?

It can usually be suspected by physical exam which reveals decreased breathing or breath sounds out of the area where the fluid is. This is usually confirmed by having a chest x-ray, chest CAT scan, or chest MRI.

What is the Treatment for Pleural Effusion?

Woman Having Chest Pain from Pleural Effusion

The treatment of pleural effusion depends on the cause and on the carrier. The cause and type of pleural effusion can usually be determined by taking a sample of the fluid by thoracentesis (removing fluid through a needle inserted between the ribs into the chest cavity). The cause of the effusion (the underlying disease) must be treated as well.

When to Seek Medical Care for Suspected Pleural Effusion?

If you or a loved one are experiencing shortness of breath or chest pain, you should almost always promptly seek medical care so the cause can be determined. A pleural effusion is not normal and is a complication of another underlying illness. Our specialists can determine what the underlying cause is. Call our office immediately if you suspect that you or a loved one are suffering from a pleural effusion to insure proper treatment for it and the underlying disease causing it.

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