Pleural Effusion (cont.)
Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.
In this Article
- What is pleural effusion?
- What causes pleural effusion?
- What are the risk factors for pleural effusion?
- What are the symptoms and signs of pleural effusion?
- When should I seek medical care for pleural effusion?
- How is pleural effusion diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for pleural effusion?
- What are the complications of pleural effusion?
- Can pleural effusion be prevented?
- What is the prognosis for pleural effusion?
- Pleural Effusion At A Glance
- Find a local Pulmonologist in your town
What are the risk factors for pleural effusion?
Since a pleural effusion is a manifestation of another illness, the risk factors are those of the underlying disease. In general, pleural effusions are seen in adults and less commonly in children.
What are the symptoms and signs of pleural effusion?
Shortness of breath is the most common symptom of a pleural effusion. As the effusion grows larger with more fluid, the harder it is for the lung to expand and the more difficult it is for the patient to breathe.
Chest pain occurs because the pleural lining of the lung is irritated. The pain is usually described as pleuritic, defined as a sharp pain, worsening with a deep breath. While the pain may be localized to the chest, if the effusion causes inflammation of the diaphragm (the muscle that divides the chest from the abdominal cavity) the pain may be referred to the shoulder or the upper abdomen. As the pleural effusion increases in size, the pain may increase.
Other associated symptoms are due to the underlying disease. For example, individuals with:
- congestive heart failure may complain of swelling of their feet and
shortness of breath when laying flat, (orthopnea) or wakening them in the
middle of the night (paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea);
- tuberculosis may be
have night sweats, cough up blood (hemoptysis), and
- hemoptysis may have associated infection and
- pneumonia may complain of fever, shaking chills, cough producing colored sputum and pleuritic pain.
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