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Pleural Effusion

Pleural effusion is a buildup of excess fluid between the pleura, layered membranes that line the lungs and chest cavity. There are two types of pleural effusion. Transudative effusion occurs when fluid leaks into the pleural space because of increased blood pressure. Exudative effusion occurs when blood or lymph vessels are blocked because inflammation, infection or injury has led to drainage problems or excess fluid production.

Causes of pleural effusion include certain types of cancer, such as lymphoma, mesothelioma, and breast, lung and ovarian cancers. It can also result from a range of other health conditions, including heart disease, heart failure, pulmonary embolism (a blood clot that blocks blood flow to a lung), pneumonia, kidney disease, liver disease and lung collapse.

Our approach to pleural effusion

UCSF's thoracic surgeons and pulmonologists are skilled and highly experienced in treating both pleural effusion and its underlying causes. Working as a team, they provide leading-edge care for pleural effusion that aims to both remove excess fluid and prevent future buildup. Our experts will also work to diagnose any related health conditions, such as infection, cancer or heart disease, and connect you with UCSF specialists who can provide the right care. Before, during and after treatment, our patients can also access support services designed to improve recovery and decrease complications.

Awards & recognition

  • usnews-neurology

    Among the top hospitals in the nation

  • usnews-pulmonology

    Best in Northern California for pulmonology & lung surgery

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.