Pulmonology Book


Pleural Effusion

Aka: Pleural Effusion, Thoracic Effusion
  1. See Also
    1. Pleural Effusion Causes
    2. Thoracentesis
    3. Pleural Fluid Interpretation
    4. Medication Causes of Pleural Effusion
  2. Definitions
    1. Pleural Effusion
      1. Fluid accumulation within the pleural cavity
    2. Parapneumonic Effusion
      1. Infectious cause of Pleural Effusion (e.g. Pneumonia, Lung Abscess)
    3. Pleural Empyema
      1. Parapneumonic Effusion complicated by pustular infection
  3. Causes
    1. See Pleural Effusion Causes
    2. See Medication Causes of Pleural Effusion
  4. History
    1. Active medical history
      1. Congestive Heart Failure
      2. Cirrhosis
      3. Renal Failure
      4. Malignancy (including Lung Cancer)
      5. Trauma
      6. Pneumonia
      7. Rheumatologic Disorder (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, Rheumatoid Arthritis)
    2. Recent surgical history
      1. Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery
      2. Esophageal Surgery (Esophageal Perforation risk)
      3. Atrial Fibrillation Ablation (pulmonary vein stenosis risk)
      4. Ventriculoperitoneal Shunt (risk of shunt migration)
      5. Laparotomy
      6. Postpartum Period
    3. Exposures
      1. See Medication Causes of Pleural Effusion
      2. Fungal Lung Infection
      3. Asbestos Exposure
  5. Symptoms
    1. Non-productive Cough
    2. Pleuritic Chest Pain
      1. Referred pain to ipsilateral Shoulder or Abdomen
    3. Tachypnea
    4. Low grade fever
    5. Dyspnea
      1. Trepopnea (Dyspnea worse when lying on one side)
    6. Red flags
      1. Weight loss
      2. Fever
        1. Low grade fever may be seen in non-infectious cause
      3. Hemoptysis
        1. Malignancy
        2. Tuberculosis
        3. Pulmonary Embolism
  6. Signs: Findings suggestive of Pleural Effusion
    1. Findings assume Pleural Effusion >300 ml
      1. Smaller Pleural Effusions are unlikely to be found on physical examination alone
    2. Asymmetric chest expansion
      1. Test Sensitivity: 74%
      2. Test Specificity: 91%
      3. Positive Likelihood Ratio (LR+): 8.1
    3. Diminished or absent breath sounds over effusion
      1. Test Sensitivity: 42-88%
      2. Test Specificity: 83-90%
    4. Dullness to percussion over effusion
      1. Test Sensitivity: 30-90%
      2. Test Specificity: 81-98%
      3. Positive Likelihood Ratio (LR+): 8.7
    5. Decreased tactile fremitus on affected side
      1. Negative Likelihood Ratio (LR+): 0.21
    6. Decreased voice transmission on affected side (vocal fremitus)
      1. Test Sensitivity: 82%
      2. Test Specificity: 86%
    7. Decreased auscultatory percussion (tap manubrium while auscultating posteriorly)
      1. Test Sensitivity: 30-96%
      2. Test Specificity: 84-95%
    8. Pleural friction rub
      1. Test Sensitivity: 5.3%
      2. Test Specificity: 99%
    9. References
      1. Wong (2009) JAMA 301(3):309-17 [PubMed]
  7. Signs: Pleural Effusion cause-specific examination
    1. Constitutional
      1. Fever (Pneumonia, empyema, Tb, malignancy, abdominal abscess)
    2. Pulmonary
      1. Hemoptysis (malignancy, PE, Tb)
    3. Cardiovascular
      1. Increased Jugular Venous Pressure (CHF, Pericarditis)
      2. Orthopnea (CHF)
      3. Bilateral Lower Extremity Edema (CHF)
      4. Unilateral extremity edema (Venous Thromboembolism)
      5. Pericardial Friction Rub (Pericarditis)
      6. S3 Gallop rhythm (CHF)
    4. Abdomen
      1. Hepatomegaly or Splenomegaly (CHF, malignancy)
      2. Ascites, Jaundice, Spider angioma, asterixis (Cirrhosis)
    5. Hemeonc
      1. Lymphadenopathy (malignancy)
      2. Primary cancer site (Breast, colon, Prostate, skin)
      3. Weight loss (malignancy)
    6. Musculoskeletal
      1. Joint exam for arthritic changes (Rheumatoid Arthritis)
  8. Procedures: Thoracentesis
    1. Indications
      1. Effusion >1 cm high on decubitus XRay in an undiagnosed patient
      2. Effusion >5 cm high on lateral XRay in Pneumonia patient (Parapneumonic Effusion, empyema)
      3. Ultrasound with pocket >1 cm (and no intervening tissue such as liver)
      4. Effusion not explained by other cause
        1. CHF not responding within 3 days to diuresis
        2. Asymmetric Pleural Effusions
        3. Fever
      5. Avoid Thoracentesis for suspected transudative bilateral Pleural Effusions
        1. Exception: Effusion not explained by other cause (see above)
    2. Interpretation
      1. See Pleural Fluid Examination
      2. See Transudate Pleural Effusion Causes
      3. See Exudate Pleural Effusion Causes
      4. See Empyema Pleural Effusion Causes
  9. Labs: Biopsy or Cytology Indications
    1. Exudate
    2. Malignancy suspected
    3. Mycobacterium tuberculosis suspected
      1. Especially if lymphocytic exudate
  10. Imaging
    1. Chest XRay: (PA and Lateral decubitus)
      1. Indications
        1. First-line study in the evaluation of Chest Pain and Dyspnea
        2. Indicated to diagnose and monitor effusion
      2. Posteroanterior Chest XRay
        1. Pleural Effusion blunts the costophrenic angle
        2. Detects Pleural Effusion >200 ml
      3. Lateral Chest XRay
        1. Pleural Effusion appears as a meniscus-shaped, concave upward opacity
        2. Detects Pleural Effusion >50-75 ml
      4. Lateral decubitus XRay
        1. Pleural Effusion fluid layers out
        2. Better estimation of effusion size and whether it is loculated
      5. Other findings
        1. Loculated effusions D-Shaped appearance
    2. Lung Ultrasound
      1. See Lung Ultrasound
      2. More accurate than Chest XRay in detecting a Pleural Effusion (operator dependent)
        1. Detects Pleural Effusion volumes as small as 5 ml
        2. Test Sensitivity 94%, Test Specificity 98% (varies with operator experience)
        3. Limited by bullae (COPD), subcutaneous air, and tight rib spaces
      3. Identifies Pleural Fluid septations more accurately than CT
      4. Recommended for guiding Thoracentesis
      5. Soni (2015) J Hosp Med 10(12): 811-6 [PubMed]
    3. CT Chest
      1. Higher Test Sensitivity than Chest XRay in detecting Pleural Effusions
      2. Distinguishes between Pleural Effusion and pleural thickening
      3. Anatomic survey of chest and upper Abdomen may reveal clues to Pleural Effusion etiology
        1. See Pleural Effusion Causes
        2. Consider CTA Chest for Pulmonary Embolism (fourth leading cause of unilateral Pleural Effusion)
  11. Management: Acute
    1. Transudate or Exudate
      1. See Pleural Effusion Causes
      2. Treat the underlying pathology
      3. Suspected exudates typically require diagnostic Thoracentesis
      4. Eliminate Medication Causes of Pleural Effusion (transudate)
    2. Lung Empyema or Parapneumonic Effusion
      1. See Lung Empyema
      2. Thoracentesis is critical in complicated Parapneumonic Effusion or empyema
      3. Adequate drainage is the key to treatment
      4. Chest Tube Indications
        1. Fibropurulent or organized Pleural Effusions (will not respond to antibiotic therapy alone)
        2. Pleural Fluid pH <7.2 or pustular fluid (empyema)
      5. Consider intrapleural fibronolytics (Streptokinase)
      6. Surgery Indications
        1. Inadequate Chest Tube drainage
    3. Malignancy suspected (unilateral Pleural Effusion)
      1. Most common causes include Lung Cancer, Breast Cancer and Leukemia
      2. CT-guided needle pleural biopsy
      3. Treat underlying malignancy
      4. Maskell (2003) Lancet 361:1326-30 [PubMed]
    4. Congestive Heart Failure
      1. See Congestive Heart Failure Exacerbation Management
      2. Avoid Thoracentesis unless large Pleural Effusion and Dyspnea
    5. Cirrhosis
      1. Fluid is typically due to Ascites that crosses a diaphragmatic defect
      2. Primary management is in reducing Cirrhotic Ascites
      3. Closure of diaphragmatic defect and pleurodesis is risky and not typically performed
    6. Pericarditis and other Pericardial Disease
      1. Complicates 25% of pericardial disease patients
      2. Presents with bilateral Pleural Effusions (but left > right)
      3. Example: Dressler's Syndrome
      4. Treat underlying conditon
    7. Milky White Pleural Fluid
      1. Empyema (pus)
        1. White fluid separates on centrifugation (clear supernatant and white cellular debris)
      2. Pseudochylothorax (Tuberculosis, rheumatoid pleuritis)
        1. Decreased Triglyceride <50 mg/dl (poor Test Sensitivity but excludes Chylothorax)
        2. Cholesterol crystals
      3. Migrated Central Venous Catheter infusing Total Parenteral Nutrition
      4. Chylothorax (due to lymph accumulation in chest)
        1. Caused by Cirrhosis, Nephrotic Syndrome, Lymphoma or often idiopathic
        2. Findings
          1. Increased Triglyceride >110 mg/dl,
          2. Chylomicrons
          3. Pleural to serum Cholesterol ratio <1
        3. Management
          1. Treat underlying condition
          2. Dietary modifications
          3. Repeat Thoracentesis
          4. Peritoneal venous shunt
          5. Indwelling pleural catheter (e.g. PleurX Catheter)
          6. Pleurodesis (refractory chylothorax in Lymphoma)
    8. Tuberculosis suspected (ADA>40, lymphocytic effusion)
      1. Start treatment empirically
    9. No cause identified
      1. Spiral CT for Pulmonary Embolism
      2. Consider Bronchoscopy
      3. Consider Thoracoscopy with biopsy
  12. Management: Chronic or malignant Pleural Effusion
    1. Thoracentesis
      1. Used for first occurrence and infrequent recurrence
    2. Indwelling pleural catheter (e.g. PleurX Catheter)
      1. Malignant Pleural Effusion with fluid reaccumulation
    3. Other procedures for frequent recurrence
      1. Pleurodesis
      2. Pleurectomy
      3. Decortication
    4. For Frequent Recurrence
      1. Open windows
      2. Supplemental Oxygen
      3. Semi-Fowler's position
      4. Bronchodilators
      5. Prednisone
      6. Narcotic Analgesic
      7. Anxiolytics
      8. Diuretics
      9. Palliative Radiotherapy
  13. References
    1. Natesan (2020) Crit Dec Emerg Med 34(7): 29-41
    2. Light (2002) N Engl J Med 346:1971-7 [PubMed]
    3. Medford (2005) Postgrad Med J 81 (961):702-10 [PubMed]
    4. Porcel (2006) Am Fam Physician 73:1211-20 [PubMed]
    5. Porcel (2013) Dis Mon 59(2): 29-57 [PubMed]
    6. Rabman (2005) Br Med Bull 72:31-47 [PubMed]
    7. Saguil (2014) Am Fam Physician 90(2): 99-104 [PubMed]
    8. Weldon (2012) Emerg Med Clin N Am 30(2): 475-9 [PubMed]

Pleural effusion disorder (C0032227)

Definition (MSHCZE) Přítomnost tekutiny v pleurální dutině, která se tam objevila jako následek nadměrného prosakování nebo výpotků z pohrudničního povrchu. Je to příznak nemoci, ale ne diagnóza samotná. R
Definition (NCI_CTCAE) A disorder characterized by an increase in amounts of fluid within the pleural cavity. Symptoms include shortness of breath, cough and marked chest discomfort.
Definition (NCI) Increased amounts of fluid within the pleural cavity. Symptoms include shortness of breath, cough, and chest pain. It is usually caused by lung infections, congestive heart failure, pleural and lung tumors, connective tissue disorders, and trauma.
Definition (NCI_NCI-GLOSS) An abnormal collection of fluid between the thin layers of tissue (pleura) lining the lung and the wall of the chest cavity.
Definition (MSH) Presence of fluid in the pleural cavity resulting from excessive transudation or exudation from the pleural surfaces. It is a sign of disease and not a diagnosis in itself.
Definition (CSP) presence of fluid in the pleural cavity resulting from excessive transudation or exudation from the pleural surfaces; it is a sign of disease and not a diagnosis in itself.
Concepts Disease or Syndrome (T047)
MSH D010996
ICD9 511.9
ICD10 J90
SnomedCT 196097001, 196101005, 155606001, 266407006, 155608000, 60046008
English Effusion, Pleural, Effusions, Pleural, Pleural Effusion, Unspecified pleural effusion, pleural cavity effusion, Pleural Effusions, Pleural effusions, pleural effusion, pleural effusion (diagnosis), Effusion pleural, Pleural Effusion [Disease/Finding], Effusion;pleural, pleural effusions, Pleural effusion NOS, Pleural effusion NOS (disorder), Thoracic effusion, PLEURAL EFFUSION, EFFUSION, PLEURAL, Pleural effusion, NOS, Pleural effusion, Pleural effusion (disorder), effusion; pleura, pleura; effusion, Pleural effusion disorder
French EPANCHEMENT PLEURAL, Epanchement pleural non précisé, Epanchement pleural, Épanchement pleural, Épanchement de la plèvre
Portuguese DERRAME PLEURAL, Derrame pleural NE, Derrame pleural, Derrame Pleural
Spanish DERRAME PLEURAL, Derrame pleural no especificado, derrame pleural, SAI, Pleural effusion NOS, derrame pleural, SAI (trastorno), derrame pleural (trastorno), derrame pleural, Derrame pleural, Derrame Pleural
German PLEURAERGUSS, unspezifischer Pleuraerguss, Pleuraerguss, Pleuraerguß
Italian Versamento della pleura, Versamento pleurico non specificato, Versamento pleurico
Dutch niet-gespecificeerde pleuritis, effusie pleuraal, effusie; pleura, pleura; effusie, pleurale effusie, Effusie, pleura-, Pleuraeffusie
Japanese 詳細不明の胸水, 胸水, ショウサイフメイノキョウスイ, キョウスイ
Swedish Vätskeutgjutning i lungsäcken
Czech pleurální výpotek (exsudát), Blíže neurčený pleurální výpotek, Pleurální výpotek, Výpotek pleurální, pleurální výpotek, pleura - efúze, fluidotorax, fluidothorax
Finnish Keuhkopussin nestekertymä
Polish Wysięk opłucnowy
Hungarian Nem meghatározott pleuralis fluidum, Mellhártya folyadék, Pleuralis fluidum
Norwegian Væskeutskillelse i lungesekken, Pleuraeffusjon
Derived from the NIH UMLS (Unified Medical Language System)

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