What is Pleural Effusion?
Pleural effusion is a condition wherein there is too much fluid that accumulates in the lining between the lungs and the chest cavity called the pleura. When this happens, lung expansion during breathing will be impeded.
Excess fluid accumulation in the lung pleura may be in the form of blood, pus, chyle, or serous fluid.
Effusion in the pleura may also be classified as transudative or exudative. Transudative pleural effusions are secondary to some fluid leak in the pleural space or cavity because of high pressure in the blood vessels. This is the type of effusion commonly seen in those with congestive heart failure. Exudative pleural effusions meanwhile result from blockage of blood vessels or from drug reactions, injury or inflammation to the lung tissue.
Patients with pleural effusion typically experience breathing difficulties such as shortness of breath. As more fluid accumulates in the pleura, the harder it is for the person to breathe normally and properly. Some patients may also have pain in the chest because of irritation to the lining of the pleura. And the same with breathing difficulties, the chest pain will also increase in severity as more fluid accumulates in the pleura. For those patients with other underlying medical conditions, they may also have other signs and symptoms. Patients suffering from pneumonia may have fevers and coughs, while those with congestive heart failure may have swollen feet and/or breathing difficulties even when lying flat on bed.
Diagnosis of pleural effusions usually require chest x-rays or CT-scans. Some doctors may also require a chest ultrasound or may take some fluid from inside the lungs through a procedure called thoracentesis. Treatment of this medical condition is aimed at removing the excess fluid that accumulated in the lung pleura, prevention of further fluid accumulation, and management of what caused the fluid accumulation.