Pleural effusion leads to fluid accumulation in the lungs and the surrounding tissues. It leads to water logging around the chest cavity, besides risking acute respiratory distress.
Pleural effusion causes clogging from leakage of pleural fluid that reduces friction between tissue membranes during breathing. Patients experiencing unexplained chest pain or breathing difficulty must visit a pulmonologist for an immediate diagnosis.
Facts on pleural effusion: What patients need to know?
Pleural effusion often results from underlying lung infections (pneumonia, tuberculosis). It’s a non-communicable disease.
Besides, serial smokers and individuals exposed to occupational hazards are directly prone to develop it in the future.
If left untreated, pleural effusion complications may lead to lung cancer.
Pleural effusion: Overview
The lungs stay covered with a double-layered pleural membrane, protecting against potential injuries from blunt injury. It provides friction-free movement of the lungs in the chest cavity.
Individuals with pleural effusion have excess fluid buildup in the lungs, leading to heavy breathing constraints. Physicians describe it as a side-effect of potential injury or underlying infection leading to the leakage of pleural fluid in the lung cavity.
While it’s not possible to detect the underlying reason without a pleural effusion diagnosis, fluid accumulation in the lungs is often a side-effect of advanced stages of pneumonia and tuberculosis infections.
How many types of pleural effusion exist?
Physician report two types of pleural effusion based on the composition of the pleural fluid leakage detected in the patient.
Pleural effusion types include:
- Exudative/unilateral/right-sided pleural effusion (leakage of blood protein, pathogens, pleural fluid, and foreign bodies in the lung cavity, leading to critical inflammation).
- Transudative/bilateral/left-sided pleural effusion (leakage of pleural fluid happens, making it less harmful unless present in large quantity).
What causes pleural effusion infection?
Physicians describe pleural effusion as a sign of underlying lung problems or a side-effect of pathogenic complications. Check out the potential reasons that lead to abnormal fluid accumulation in the lungs:
- Individuals with abnormally high blood pressure/low blood protein count.
- Abnormal heart functioning (congestive heart failure).
- Side effects of advanced pathogenic infection (pneumonia and tuberculosis).
- Patients with auto-immune conditions (rheumatoid arthritis or lupus).
- Exposure to occupational hazards leads to asbestosis and silicosis.
- Individuals with pulmonary embolism (blockage in the pulmonary artery carrying deoxygenated blood from the heart).
Pleural effusion symptoms: How to recognise fluid accumulation in the lungs?
Physicians suggest patients look for unexplained chest pain during deep breathing as pleural effusion causes characteristic breathing trouble when not in an erect posture.
Here are the potential pleural effusion symptoms:
- Unexplained breathing problems when not standing (dyspnea and orthopnea).
- Frequent chest congestion and pain while breathing (pleurisy).
- Individuals with frequent dry cough.
- Abnormal breathing, shortness of breath, and wheezing sound
Pleural effusion leads to severe lung infection. It could lead to localised inflammation triggering high fever.
Pleural effusion diagnosis: Detecting fluid congestion in the lungs
Physicians use manual diagnosis for preliminary confirmation of the site of fluid accumulation. Next, the chest specialist uses a plethora of diagnostic methods to gain a thorough understanding of the underlying pleural effusion complications.
- Pleural effusion chest X-ray report detects fluid accumulation, which appears white in the X-ray report. The rest of the healthy lungs will appear black.
- CT scan provides further clarity on the fluid accumulation inside the lungs.
- A USG of the thoracic region also helps detect the potential cause that triggered the leak of pleural fluid in the cavity.
- Thoracentesis (fluid extraction using a syringe) is an effective diagnostic method to examine the underlying fluid accumulation. It helps detect the type of pleural effusion.
Once the diagnosis is made, the doctor will suggest treatment methods, which we discuss below.
What treatment helps relieve pleural effusion complications in the lungs?
Pleural effusion treatment includes surgical intervention, drug therapy, and emergency fluid dispersal from the lungs to prevent the potential collapse of the breathing system.
Learn more about the various treatment methods used to stabilise this lung condition:
- Thoracentesis is the emergency fluid removal technique using a sterilised syringe.
- Thoracostomy helps relieve excess fluid accumulation. The doctor performs a hole passing through the rib space, reaching the affected lung cavity region. A transparent tube drains the fluid, providing relief from chest pain.
- Pleural drain helps tackle frequent pleural effusion complications. The surgeon attached a catheter instead of a transparent pipe to drain fluid accumulation.
- Pleurodesis uses an anti-inflammatory substance to reduce the worsening of the affected lung cavity. It binds with the infection and prevents recurring pleural effusion.
- Thoracotomy is a surgical method to remove the infected tissues affecting the lung cavity. It helps reduce inflammation and eliminates potential cancerous tissues from affecting the lungs.
- Consume prescribed antibiotics and steroid medications to destroy potential infections and reduce inflammation of the lung tissues.
- VATS is a state-of-the-art invasive method where pleural effusion complications having a risk of malignancy get removed to counter frequent fluid accumulation.
Pleural effusion: How to prevent fluid accumulation
Pleural effusion complications are a potential outcome of underlying lung infections. Healthy individuals or patients prone to lung issues should practice the following remedies to prevent inflammation.
- Wear a mask to protect the respiratory pathway from contamination
- Abstain from smoking
- Practice erect posture to reduce discomfort in lifestyle
- Visit a physician to get diagnosed when feeling breathing issues or abnormally prone to respiratory issues
- Professionals having occupational hazards should wear adequate protection.
Pleural effusion causes grave damage to the lungs. However, it’s a curable condition. Patients prone to chronic respiratory issues are most vulnerable to fluid accumulation. We suggest individuals get diagnosed by a chest specialist (pulmonologist) upon experiencing unexplained breathing issues. Do not delay in seeking help when needed.
Individuals showing signs similar to pleural effusion symptoms should seek treatment without delay. We advise potential individuals to reach out to our team of experts at the Department of ENT & Pulmonology at the nearest CK Birla Hospital to get prompt treatment and effective relief. You can simply walk-in or book an appointment online for detailed consultations from pulmonologist Dr. Kuldeep Grover.