Pleural Effusion (Fluid In the Chest or On Lung) (cont.)

Medical Author:
Medical Editor:

What is the treatment for pleural effusion?

Comment on this

Small transudative pleural effusions may require no treatment, while larger ones and most exudative pleural effusions require treatment. The initial treatment of choice is drainage of the pleural fluid. This is done by thoracentesis (this procedure may be both diagnostic and therapeutic), where a tube is inserted into the effusion, and the effusion is drained out. This procedure needs monitoring, and in some instances, the tube may need to remain in the pleural space for a longer period of time for continued drainage. The need for repeated thoracentesis varies from patient to patient depending on the underlying cause, the amount of effusion fluid, the type of effusion (thick, thin, malignant, or infectious, for example) and if there is recurrence of the pleural effusion.

Some pleural effusions (mainly exudative) may require surgery to break up adhesions, while others may require pleurodesis (pleural sclerosis), a procedure whereby different irritant substances or medications are inserted into the pleural space in order to fibrose and scar the visceral and pleural surfaces together. This procedure seals the pleural space so that pleural effusions have difficulty reaccumulating.

The use of medications for pleural effusions depends on the underlying cause. Antibiotics are used when there is an infectious cause, whereby diuretics such as furosemide (Lasix) may be used to slowly help reduce the size of the pleural effusion.

What are the complications of pleural effusion?

Comment on this

The potential complications associated with pleural effusion are:

  • lung scarring,
  • pneumothorax (collapse of the lung) as a complication of thoracentesis,
  • empyema (a collection of pus within the pleural space), and
  • sepsis (blood infection) sometimes leading to death.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/21/2013

Patient Comments

Viewers share their comments

Pleural Effusion - Cause Question: What was the cause of your case of pleural effusion?
Pleural Effusion - Signs and Symptoms Question: What were the signs and symptoms you experienced with pleural effusion?
Pleural Effusion - Treatment Question: What treatment did you receive for pleural effusion?
Pleural Effusion - Complications Question: What complications did you experience with pleural effusion?