Pleural effusion

Water on the lungs

Fluid that collects between the sheets of tissue that cover the outside of your lung and the lining of your chest cavity

About

The pleura is a membrane that covers your lungs. It consists of two layers and produces fluid that helps your lungs to move when you breathe. If cancer cells spread to the pleura then fluid can build up and press on your lungs, causing shortness of breath (dyspnoea). The fluid can be removed on a regular basis but, over time, this can be difficult.

Need to know

  • Symptoms of pleural effusion icon plus

    Symptoms of pleural effusion may include: - Shortness of breath - Chest pain - Coughing
  • Diagnosis icon plus

    Your consultant will listen to your chest with a stethoscope. If they suspect pleural effusion they may request a chest x-ray or ultrasound scan to confirm diagnosis.
  • Potential treatment options icon plus

    Treatment options include: - Draining the fluid from your lungs by putting a tube into your chest via a small incision. You may need to spend a couple of days in hospital recovering from this procedure. - If it happens again you may need to have the procedure repeated or have the drain left in place permanently - A thoracoscopy. This is a minimally invasive procedure that allows your consultant access to the pleural space using a flexible tube with a camera (thoracoscope) and medical instruments.

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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