Pleural Effusions Information

What is it?

A pleural effusion is when an abnormal amount of fluid accumulates in the area between the lining surrounding the lungs known as the pleural cavity. When an excessive amount of fluid is collected, it can severely impair breathing on a massive scale as the lungs are limited from expanding during ventilation.  Pleural Empyema is the collection of pus in the pleural cavity of the body.

The two types of pleural effusions are;

  • Transudative.
  • Exudative.

What causes it?

A pleura is the membrane that lines the outside of the lungs, this membrane carries a small amount of liquid in order to lubricate the lungs during ventilation. However sometimes the membrane can get irritated, infected or inflamed therefore causing an excess in fluid that accumulates in the pleural cavity.  There are several different causes for this ‘irritation’, the major causes being;

  • Congestive heart failure.
  • Cancer: particularly lung, breast, ovarian, mesothelioma and lymphoma.
  • Cancer treatments: radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
  • Kidney disease and failure.
  • Lung infections: bacterial, fungal, or chemical causing inflammation.
  • Lung abscess.
  • Malignancy.
  • Pulmonary embolism: blockage of arteries on route to the lungs.
  • Hypoalbuminemia.
  • Cirrohosis (poor liver function).
  • Lupus and other autoimmune conditions.
  • Pneumonia.
  • Nephrotic syndrome.

What are we doing about it?

The Institute for Respiratory Health’s research programs explore new ways to prevent, and better understand pleural infection and improve its diagnosis and management.

Other information can be found at Healthdirect Australia.