Parapneumonic effusion

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


A parapneumonic effusion is a type of pleural effusion that arises as a result of a pneumonia. There are three types of parapneumonic effusions: uncomplicated effusions, complicated effusions, and empyema. Uncomplicated effusions generally respond well to appropriate antibiotic treatment. Complicated parapneumonic effusions respond more variably: many resolve with antibiotics but may benefit from early pleural fluid drainage. Treatment of empyemas includes antibiotics, complete pleural fluid drainage, and reexpansion of the lung.

  • A parapneumonic effusion is any pleural effusion that is associated with a bacterial pneumonia, lung abscess or bronchiectasis. 40% of all patients with bacterial pneumonia develop a pleural effusion, and the development of a pleural effusion increases morbidity and mortality as compared with an isolated pneumonia. . In general parapneumonic effusions have 3 stages:
    • Exudative: Due to capillary leak, causing a sterile effusion that has a poly predominance, with normal glucose and pH. It is seen within the 1st 72, and will usually resolve with antibiotics alone.
    • Fibrinopurulent: Occurs during days 3-7. The pleural fluid becomes infected with bacteria, and the lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) rises, as the glucose and pH fall. As the fibroblasts get busy, loculations develop which limits the extension of the empyema.
    • Organization: Further fibroblast activity produces a pleural peel leading to restrictive lung disease. Without definitive treatment, the empyema can drain externally (empyema necessitatis) or into the lung to produce a broncho-pleural fistula.
  • Approximately 20% of all parapneumonic effusions evolve into empyema. Hippocrates described empyema thoracis around 400 BC and predicted drainage of the pleural cavity as the treatment of choice. The term empyema refers to either the presence of gross pus in the pleural space, or a positive gram stain on pleural fluid analysis. 60% of empyemas evolve from a parapneumonic effusion, 20% after thoracic surgery and 20% from thoracic trauma, esophageal perforation, thoracentesis or subdiaphragmatic infection. The majority of patients who develop empyema have underlying disease, most frequently alcoholism (especially in patients with anaerobic infections), malignancy and diabetes.

Historical Perspective

  • [Disease name] was first discovered by [scientist name], a [nationality + occupation], in [year] during/following [event].
  • In [year], [gene] mutations were first identified in the pathogenesis of [disease name].
  • In [year], the first [discovery] was developed by [scientist] to treat/diagnose [disease name].


  • [Disease name] may be classified according to [classification method] into [number] subtypes/groups:
  • [group1]
  • [group2]
  • [group3]
  • Other variants of [disease name] include [disease subtype 1], [disease subtype 2], and [disease subtype 3].


  • The pathogenesis of [disease name] is characterized by [feature1], [feature2], and [feature3].
  • The [gene name] gene/Mutation in [gene name] has been associated with the development of [disease name], involving the [molecular pathway] pathway.
  • On gross pathology, [feature1], [feature2], and [feature3] are characteristic findings of [disease name].
  • On microscopic histopathological analysis, [feature1], [feature2], and [feature3] are characteristic findings of [disease name].


  • [Disease name] may be caused by either [cause1], [cause2], or [cause3].
  • [Disease name] is caused by a mutation in the [gene1], [gene2], or [gene3] gene[s].
  • There are no established causes for [disease name].

Differentiating [disease name] from other Diseases

  • [Disease name] must be differentiated from other diseases that cause [clinical feature 1], [clinical feature 2], and [clinical feature 3], such as:
  • [Differential dx1]
  • [Differential dx2]
  • [Differential dx3]

Epidemiology and Demographics

  • The prevalence of [disease name] is approximately [number or range] per 100,000 individuals worldwide.
  • In [year], the incidence of [disease name] was estimated to be [number or range] cases per 100,000 individuals in [location].


  • Patients of all age groups may develop [disease name].
  • [Disease name] is more commonly observed among patients aged [age range] years old.
  • [Disease name] is more commonly observed among [elderly patients/young patients/children].


  • [Disease name] affects men and women equally.
  • [Gender 1] are more commonly affected with [disease name] than [gender 2].
  • The [gender 1] to [Gender 2] ratio is approximately [number > 1] to 1.


  • There is no racial predilection for [disease name].
  • [Disease name] usually affects individuals of the [race 1] race.
  • [Race 2] individuals are less likely to develop [disease name].

Risk Factors

  • Common risk factors in the development of [disease name] are [risk factor 1], [risk factor 2], [risk factor 3], and [risk factor 4].

Natural History, Complications and Prognosis

  • The majority of patients with [disease name] remain asymptomatic for [duration/years].
  • Early clinical features include [manifestation 1], [manifestation 2], and [manifestation 3].
  • If left untreated, [#%] of patients with [disease name] may progress to develop [manifestation 1], [manifestation 2], and [manifestation 3].
  • Common complications of [disease name] include [complication 1], [complication 2], and [complication 3].
  • Prognosis is generally [excellent/good/poor], and the [1/5/10­year mortality/survival rate] of patients with [disease name] is approximately [#%].


Diagnostic Criteria

  • The diagnosis of [disease name] is made when at least [number] of the following [number] diagnostic criteria are met:
  • [criterion 1]
  • [criterion 2]
  • [criterion 3]
  • [criterion 4]


  • [Disease name] is usually asymptomatic.
  • Symptoms of [disease name] may include the following:
  • [symptom 1]
  • [symptom 2]
  • [symptom 3]
  • [symptom 4]
  • [symptom 5]
  • [symptom 6]

Physical Examination

  • Patients with [disease name] usually appear [general appearance].
  • Physical examination may be remarkable for:
  • [finding 1]
  • [finding 2]
  • [finding 3]
  • [finding 4]
  • [finding 5]
  • [finding 6]

Laboratory Findings

  • There are no specific laboratory findings associated with [disease name].
  • A [positive/negative] [test name] is diagnostic of [disease name].
  • An [elevated/reduced] concentration of [serum/blood/urinary/CSF/other] [lab test] is diagnostic of [disease name].
  • Other laboratory findings consistent with the diagnosis of [disease name] include [abnormal test 1], [abnormal test 2], and [abnormal test 3].

Imaging Findings

  • There are no [imaging study] findings associated with [disease name].
  • [Imaging study 1] is the imaging modality of choice for [disease name].
  • On [imaging study 1], [disease name] is characterized by [finding 1], [finding 2], and [finding 3].
  • [Imaging study 2] may demonstrate [finding 1], [finding 2], and [finding 3].

Other Diagnostic Studies

  • [Disease name] may also be diagnosed using [diagnostic study name].
  • Findings on [diagnostic study name] include [finding 1], [finding 2], and [finding 3].


Medical Therapy

  • There is no treatment for [disease name]; the mainstay of therapy is supportive care.
  • The mainstay of therapy for [disease name] is [medical therapy 1] and [medical therapy 2].
  • [Medical therapy 1] acts by [mechanism of action 1].
  • Response to [medical therapy 1] can be monitored with [test/physical finding/imaging] every [frequency/duration].


  • Surgery is the mainstay of therapy for [disease name].
  • [Surgical procedure] in conjunction with [chemotherapy/radiation] is the most common approach to the treatment of [disease name].
  • [Surgical procedure] can only be performed for patients with [disease stage] [disease name].


  • There are no primary preventive measures available for [disease name].
  • Effective measures for the primary prevention of [disease name] include [measure1], [measure2], and [measure3].
  • Once diagnosed and successfully treated, patients with [disease name] are followed-up every [duration]. Follow-up testing includes [test 1], [test 2], and [test 3].


Duke, J. Roy, Jr. (2000). "Pleural Effusion". Frontline Assessment of Common Pulmonary Presentatons. Denver, CO: Snowdrift Pulmonary Foundation, Inc. ISBN 0-9671809-2-9. Retrieved 2007-08-07. Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (help)