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Definition of Pleurisy

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Pleurisy: Inflammation of the pleurae, the membranes surrounding the lungs. Symptoms include pain in the chest, chest tenderness, cough, and shortness of breath. The chest pain is sharp and aggravated by breathing. A physician can often hear with a stethoscope the friction generated by the rubbing of the two inflamed layers of pleurae with each breath. The causes of pleurisy include lung infections, collagen vascular diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, cancer of the lung or pleura, heart failure, pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lungs), obstruction of lymph channels, trauma such as rib fractures, drugs such as Dilantin, pancreatitis, and cirrhosis of the liver. Removal of pleural fluid, when present, with a needle and syringe is key in diagnosing the cause of pleurisy and can also relieve the pain and shortness of breath associated with pleurisy. If the fluid is infected, treatment involves use of antibiotics and drainage of the fluid. In severe cases, in which there are large amounts of pus and scar tissue (adhesions), there may be a need for decortication (opening the pleural space and removing portions of one or two ribs in order to clear scar tissue and remove pus and debris). Also known as pleuritis.

Reviewed on 12/27/2018

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