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What is pleural effusion?

A pleural effusion is the buildup of fluid between the outer lining of the lungs (visceral lining) and the inner lining (parietal lining) of the chest cavity. These linings are called the pleura. The lungs are contained within the thoracic cavity, the upper

part of the trunk within the rib cage. They are completely lined by a thin inner membrane called the visceral pleura. It is continuous with another thin outer membrane called the parietal pleura which also invests the lungs, but attaches to the chest wall. Normally, the pleural space (the area between the two pleura) contains no air and only a thin film of lubricating fluid. The primary function of the pleura is to allow the chest wall and lungs to act in harmony during inspiration and expiration. Normally, a very small amount of fluid surrounds the lungs, keeping them lubricated. This fluid allows the lungs to collapse and expand easily when a person breathes. Sometimes, the amount of fluid increases to an abnormal level. This can happen for various reasons. Generally, the accumulation of fluid in the pleural space is a complication of an underlying disease process. It is important to note that people with the medical problems listed below all have the potential to develop a pleural effusion, but do not always do so. The most common symptoms are chest pain and difficulty breathing (dyspnea). Many pleural effusions cause no symptoms but are discovered during the physical examination or seen on a chest x-ray, which is the most convenient way to confirm the diagnosis. Many conditions are capable of causing pleural effusion, including heart failure and uremia (kidney failure), hypoalbuminemia (low levels of albumin in the blood), infections (TB, bacterial, fungal, viral), pulmonary embolism, and malignancies (metastatic tumors, Hodgkin disease, mesothelioma). Despite extensive evaluation, the causation of a pleural effusion is not established in about 20% of cases.

More information on pleural effusion

What is pleural effusion? - A pleural effusion is the buildup of fluid between the outer lining of the lungs (visceral lining) and the inner lining of the chest cavity.
What causes pleural effusion? - Transudative pleural effusions are usually caused by a disorder in the normal pressure in the lung. The cause and type of pleural effusion is determined by thoracentesis.
What're the symptoms of pleural effusion? - The most common symptoms of pleural effusion are shortness of breath and chest pain.
How is pleural effusion diagnosed? - Diagnosis of pleural effusion is ccomplished with a simple chest x-ray, further radiographic tests may be needed to confirm the presence of pleural fluid.
What's the treatment for pleural effusion? - Treatment of pleural effusion may be directed at removing the fluid, preventing its re-accumulation, or addressing the underlying cause of the fluid buildup.
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All information is intended for reference only. Please consult your physician for accurate medical advices and treatment. Copyright 2005,, all rights reserved. Last update: July 18, 2005