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Pleural Effusion

Pleural Effusion Facts

  • Pleural effusions describe fluid between the two layer of tissue (pleura) that cover the lung and the lining of the chest wall.
  • A pleural effusion is due to the manifestations of another illness.
  • In general, pleural effusions can be divided into transudates (caused by fluid leaking from blood vessels) and exudates (where fluid leaks from inflammation of the pleura and lung).
  • The most common causes of pleural effusion are congestive heart failure, pneumonia, malignancies and pulmonary embolism.
  • Signs and symptoms of pleural effusion include:
  • Associated symptoms of pleural effusion due to an underlying disease include:
  • Thoracentesis is used to draw off the pleural fluid for analysis. A thin needle is inserted between the ribs into the fluid collection.
  • Treatment of the pleural effusion depends upon the underlying illness.

Pleural Effusion Overview

A pleural effusion is a collection of fluid in the space between the two linings (pleura) of the lung.

When we breathe, it is like a bellows. We inhale air into our lungs and the ribs move out and the diaphragm moves down. For the lung to expand, its lining has to slide along with the chest wall movement. For this to happen, both the lungs and the ribs are covered with a slippery lining called the pleura. A small amount of fluid acts as a lubricant for these two surfaces to slide easily against each other.

Too much fluid impairs the ability of the lung to expand and move.

Picture of pleural effusion
Picture of pleural effusion
Last Reviewed 11/20/2017

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