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Pleural Effusion Treatments


Treatment is usually aimed at treating the underlying cause. This may include treating:

  • Heart failure
  • Blood clots in the lungs
  • Infection by administering antibiotics

To Support Breathing

If breathing is impaired you may receive:

  • Breathing treatments
  • Supplemental oxygen

Drain the Pleural Effusion

The pleural effusion may be drained by:

  • Therapeutic thoracentesis —done by inserting a needle into the area and withdrawing fluid
  • Tube thoracostomy—inserting a chest tube into the side of your chest and leaving it in place for several days, eventually attached to suction

Seal the Pleural Layers

In some cases, the doctor may recommend chemical pleurodesis. During this procedure, talc powder or an irritating chemical is injected into the pleural space. This will permanently seal the two layers of the pleura together. This may help prevent further fluid build up.

Radiation therapy may also be used to achieve this purpose.


In severe cases, surgery may be needed. It is done to remove some of the pleura and resolve the pleural effusion. This may be accomplished through:

  • Thoracotomy —traditional, open chest procedure
  • Video-assisted thorascopic surgery (VATS)—minimally-invasive type of keyhole surgery

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Copyright © 2023 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.

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