Pleural effusion

Alternative Names

Fluid in the chest; Fluid on the lung; Pleural fluid

Definition of Pleural effusion

A pleural effusion is a buildup of fluid between the layers of tissue that line the lungs and chest cavity.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Your body produces pleural fluid in small amounts to lubricate the surfaces of the pleura, the thin tissue that lines the chest cavity and surrounds the lungs. A pleural effusion is an abnormal, excessive collection of this fluid.

Signs and tests

During a physical examination, the doctor will listen to the sound of your breathing with a stethoscope and may tap on your chest to listen for dullness.

Treatment

Treatment aims to:

Expectations (prognosis)

The expected outcome depends upon the underlying disease.

Review

David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 9/15/2010

Lungs
Respiratory system
Pleural cavity

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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