What is a Pleural Effusion?
Pleural fluid is produced by the body in small amounts to lubricate the tissue that lines the chest cavity around the lungs. A pleural effusion is an excessive build-up of fluid between these layers.
There are two different types of effusions which can develop. Transudative pleural effusions are caused by fluid leaking into the pleural space from increased pressure in the blood vessels. Exudative effusions are caused by blocked blood vessels and inflammation.
How common is a Pleural Effusion?
Pleural effusions are quite common and are often due to infections such as pneumonia, or heart failure, when the heart is not pumping the blood efficiently around the body.
What are the symptoms of a Pleural Effusion?
Pleural Effusions can cause chest pain, coughs, fever, hiccups, rapid breathing and shortness of breath.
How is a Pleural Effusion treated?
Treatment of pleural effusions aims to remove the fluid, prevent the fluid from building back up again and treating the cause of the fluid build-up.
Removing large amounts of fluid with therapeutic thoracentesis allows the lung to expand, releasing chest pressure and making breathing easier. Once drained, the cause of pleural effusion can be treated.
Pleural effusions caused by heart failure are treated with diuretics and medication. Pleural effusions caused by infections are treated with antibiotics.
In more serious cases, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery may be needed to treat the pleural effusion.
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