A pleural effusion is the build up of fluid in the pleural space (the space around the lung).
There are many causes of a pleural effusion. Pneumonia and other infections, heart failure, cancer, inflammatory diseases such as lupus, severe poor nutritional states, pancreatitis, and cirrhosis may be associated or cause a pleural effusion.
The treatment of the pleural effusion will depend on the patient's condition and the cause of the pleural effusion. Pleural effusions are often sampled with a small needle or catheter to determine the cause. Occasionally the pleural effusion may be totally removed by this method. If the underlying cause of the pleural effusion can be treated then the fluid may go away without placing tubes for drainage. Some patients may need a chest tube and surgery to treat this condition.
Pleural effusions are fairly common in ICU patients and usually do not require extensive treatment if they are not causing problems for the patient.
Related LinksNational Library of Medicine
The National Library of Medicine presents information and pictures about pleural effusion.