Doctors and providers who treat this condition


Pleural Effusion

The pleura is a smooth double membrane that surrounds the lungs and separates them from the chest wall. One side of the pleura attaches to the lung, the other to the chest wall. This membrane makes it easier for the chest to inflate and deflate as you breathe without rubbing against the ribs. There is normally a small amount of lubricating fluid between the pleural membranes (“pleural fluid”). 

A pleural effusion is when an excess amount of fluid collects in the space between the two pleural membranes (“pleural space”). As the amount of fluid increases, it begins to press on the lung, making it harder to take a full breath.

There are two types of pleural effusion:

  • Inflammatory—caused by a lung disease that irritates the pleura, such as pneumonia or lung cancer.

  • Non-inflammatory—caused by abnormal fluid pressures inside the lungs, such as congestive heart failure (also called “CHF,” where excess fluid collects inside the lung tissues due to a weakened heart muscle, then leaks into the pleural space).

Pleural effusion may cause any of the following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath

  • Rapid breathing

  • Cough or hiccups

  • Sharp chest pain that hurts more with coughing or deep breathing

A small pleural effusion may cause no symptoms at all. 

Treatment will be directed at the cause of the pleural effusion. If you are having a lot of trouble breathing, a thoracentesis procedure may be performed to remove the fluid from the pleural space. This usually gives immediate relief, although the fluid may gradually return. 

Home Care:

  1. Exertion may make your symptoms worse, so rest until you are feeling better.

  2. If medicines were prescribed to treat the underlying cause of the pleural effusion, take these exactly as directed.

Follow Up

with your doctor or as advised by our staff.

Return Promptly

or contact your doctor if any of the following occur:

  • Increasing shortness of breath

  • Increasing chest pain

  • Coughing up blood

  • Weakness, dizziness, or fainting

  • Fever over 100.4ºF (38.0ºC)


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