Pleural effusion medical therapy

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1] Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Prince Tano Djan, BSc, MBChB [2]


Treatment aims to remove the fluid(therapeutic thoracentesis), prevent fluid re-accumulation by way of pleurodesis[1][2], and treat the underlying cause (e.g. antibiotic therapy in infectious causes).[3] In some malignant causes, chemotherapy may be needed.

Medical Therapy

Treatment aims to:[3]

  • Remove the fluid
  • Prevent fluid from building up again especially in recurring pleural effusion by way of pleurodesis[1][2]
  • Treat the underlying cause of the fluid buildup

For example, pleural effusions caused by congestive heart failure are treated with diuretics and other medications needed in congestive heart failure treatment. Pleural effusions caused by infection are treated with appropriate antibiotics. In people with cancer or infections, the effusion is often treated by using a chest tube for several days to drain the fluid.

In some malignant causes, Chemotherapy may be prescribed.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Koegelenberg CF, Vorster MJ (2015). "Chemical Pleurodesis for Malignant Pleural Effusion: How Far Have We Come in 80 Years?". Respiration. 90 (5): 355–6. PMID 26484756. doi:10.1159/000441308. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Hasan R, Khan OS, Aftabuddin M, Razzaque AM, Chowdhury GA (2016). "A Case of Massive Pleural Effusion: Pleurodesis by Bleomycin.". Mymensingh Med J. 25 (2): 374–8. PMID 27277376. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Porcel JM, Azzopardi M, Koegelenberg CF, Maldonado F, Rahman NM, Lee YC (2015). "The diagnosis of pleural effusions.". Expert Rev Respir Med. 9 (6): 801–15. PMID 26449328. doi:10.1586/17476348.2015.1098535.