Symptoms and Signs of Pleural Effusion

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 11/14/2022

Doctor's Notes on Pleural Effusion

pleural effusion is a collection of fluid in the pleural cavity, the space between the lungs and the chest wall. Many different kinds of conditions can cause a pleural effusion to develop. Potential causes include:

Signs and symptoms of pleural effusion include:

  • chest pain,
  • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing,
  • asymmetrical expansion of the chest during breathing, and
  • a dry or productive (producing sputum) cough.

Other associated symptoms may include pleurisy, which is a pain in the chest that occurs during breathing. If an infection is the cause of a pleural effusion, symptoms such as fever, chills, fatigue, and decreased appetite may also occur.

What Is the Treatment for Pleural Effusion?

Treatment for pleural effusion depends upon the underlying cause and symptoms. If the effusion is causing difficulty breathing, the effusion may be drained by inserting a needle into the pleural cavity (thoracentesis) or placement of a chest tube to remove the fluid. Other treatments may include:

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.