Pleural effusion (abnormal fluid in the chest)


Chest | Pulmonology | Pleural effusion (abnormal fluid in the chest) (Disease)


Description

A pleural effusion is an abnormal collection of fluid in the pleural space resulting from excess fluid production or decreased absorption. It is the most common manifestation of pleural disease, with etiologies ranging from cardiopulmonary disorders to symptomatic inflammatory or malignant diseases requiring urgent evaluation and treatment.

There are two types of pleural effusion: the transudate and the exudate. This is a very important point because the two types of fluid are very different, and which type is present points to what sort of disease is likely to have produced the effusion. It also can suggest the best approach to treatment.

The key symptom of a pleural effusion is shortness of breath. Fluid filling the pleural space makes it hard for the lungs to fully expand, causing the patient to take many breaths so as to get enough oxygen. When the parietal pleura is irritated, the patient may have mild pain that quickly passes or, sometimes, a sharp, stabbing pleuritic type of pain. Some patients will have a dry cough.

Causes and isk factors

Pleural effusion occurs when too much fluid collects in the pleural space (the space between the two layers of the pleura). It is commonly known as water on the lungs. It is characterized by shortness of breath, chest pain, gastric discomfort (dyspepsia), and cough. Pleural effusion itself is not a disease as much as a result of many different diseases. For this reason, there is no typical patient in terms of age, sex, or other characteristics. Instead, anyone who develops one of the many conditions that can produce an effusion may be affected.

Diagnosis and Treatment

First the cause of the fluid accumulation must be treated. The fluid will be removed usually with a needle or a catheter. Depending on the cause of fluid other treatment options include: chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or instilling medication within the chest that prevents re-accumulation of fluid after drainage

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