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Treatment Pulmonology

Pleural Effusion

  • Fluid drainage. Removing fluid from the chest cavity can relieve the symptoms of pleural effusion and allow the lungs to inflate more fully. One minimally invasive drainage method is thoracentesis, which involves inserting a needle into the chest cavity to remove the excess fluid. For recurrent or severe pleural effusion, your doctor may place a small tube in the chest to address significant fluid buildup. The tube can be used to insert medication that prevents fluid from accumulating or it can be attached to a suction device that removes extra fluid or air.
  • Pleurodesis. This surgical treatment may be used for patients with recurrent pleural effusion due to an underlying condition, such as cancer. After removing fluid from the chest cavity, doctors administer a medication that causes the lung to stick to the chest wall, preventing future fluid buildup.
  • Treating the underlying condition. Depending on the cause of your pleural effusion, your doctor may recommend additional treatment to prevent a recurrence. If you have a bacterial infection, this will likely involve antibiotics, administered orally or intravenously. Patients with heart failure, cancer, liver disease, kidney disease or another underlying condition will receive additional treatments tailored to their needs.

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.

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