Decrease (-) Restore Default Increase (+)
Print    Email
Bookmark and Share

Health Information

Health Information

Health Information

Health Information - Definition

Search Health Information    Pleural Effusion

Pleural Effusion

A pleural effusion is the buildup of fluid between the outer lining of the lungs (visceral pleura) and the inner lining (parietal pleura) of the chest cavity. This fluid buildup has many causes, including infection, inflammation, heart failure, pancreatitis, or cancer.

A minor pleural effusion may not cause any symptoms. A large amount of fluid may prevent the complete expansion of a lung, making it hard for the person to breathe. Possible symptoms of a pleural effusion may include:

  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Chest pain.
  • Fever.
  • A cough.

A doctor may diagnose a pleural effusion during a physical exam and then confirm the diagnosis with a chest X-ray.

Small pleural effusions often heal on their own. If treatment is needed, it may involve removal of the fluid using a needle inserted through the chest wall (thoracentesis). The fluid may be sent to a lab to find out what is causing the fluid to build up.

Last Revised: July 15, 2011

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Robert L. Cowie, MB, FCP(SA), MD, MSc, MFOM - Pulmonology

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2013 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

© 2014 St. Mary's Health System   |  3700 Washington Avenue  |  Evansville, IN 47750  |  (812) 485-4000