A pleural effusion is the buildup of fluid between the outer
lining of the lungs (visceral pleura) and the inner lining
(parietal pleura) of the chest cavity. This fluid buildup
has many causes, including infection, inflammation, heart failure,
pancreatitis, or cancer.
A minor pleural effusion may not cause
any symptoms. A large amount of fluid may prevent the complete
expansion of a lung, making it hard for the person to breathe. Possible
symptoms of a pleural effusion may include:
A doctor may diagnose a pleural
effusion during a physical exam and then confirm the diagnosis with a chest
Small pleural effusions often heal on their own. If
treatment is needed, it may involve removal of the fluid using a needle
inserted through the chest wall (thoracentesis). The fluid may be sent to a lab
to find out what is causing the fluid to build up.
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Robert L. Cowie, MB, FCP(SA), MD, MSc, MFOM - Pulmonology
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