Pleural Effusion (cont.)

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What is the treatment for pleural effusion?

Since a pleural effusion may compromise breathing, the ABCs (Airway, Breathing, and Circulation) of resuscitation are often the first consideration to make certain that there is enough oxygen available for the body to function.

The treatment of a pleural effusion usually requires that the underlying illness or disease is treated and controlled to prevent accumulation of the pleural fluid.

While thoracentesis is used as a diagnostic procedure, it can also be therapeutic in removing fluid and allowing the lung to expand and function. Tube thoracostomy, also known as a chest tube, may be placed to drain and treat empyemas (pus collections).

What are the complications of pleural effusion?

Pleural effusions compromise lung function by preventing its full expansion for breathing. If the effusion is longstanding, there can be associated lung scarring and permanent decrease in lung function. Fluid that remains for a prolonged period of time is also at risk for becoming infected and forming an abscess called an empyema.

Diagnostic and therapeutic procedures including thoracentesis involve placing needles through the chest wall into the pleural space. Pneumothorax is a potential complication.

Some pleural effusions reoccur multiple times; sclerosing agents that induce scarring such as talc or tetracycline may be used to prevent recurrence. If sclerosing agents fail, surgery may be required.

Can pleural effusion be prevented?

Pleural effusions are caused by a variety of conditions and illnesses. Preventing the underlying cause will decrease the potential of developing an effusion.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/30/2014

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