Bilateral Pleural Effusion: Symptoms, Causes And Treatment

The excessive buildup of fluid between lungs and chest cavity is pleural effusion. Know the symptoms, causes,  treatment of bilateral condition.

Navya Kharbanda
Written by: Navya KharbandaPublished at: Jun 07, 2021
Bilateral Pleural Effusion: Symptoms, Causes And Treatment

The excessive buildup of fluid in the space between your lungs and chest cavity, known as water fluid is also called Pleural effusion. The condition in which both the lungs get affected is called bilateral pleural effusion. To lubricate the lungs, small amounts of liquid is always present within this lining, as there is expansion during breathing. Due to irritation, inflammation or infection too much fluid is created by the pleura. Veteran actor Dilip Kumar was hospitalised recently after complaining of breathlessness, is stable, but has been diagnosed with bilateral pleural effusion and is on oxygen support in the ICU.

The fluid buildup between the chest cavity and the lungs is the main cause behind pleural effusion. Due to the collection of watery fluid in the pleural space, smooth movement of your lungs is made possible in the chest cavity while breathing. Onlymyhealth editorial team spoke to Dr. Arun Chowdary Kotaru, Consultant, Respiratory Pulmonology & Sleep Medicine, Artemis Hospitals Gurgaon, about the symptoms, causes and treatment of bilateral pleural effusion.

Pleural effusion symptoms

pleural effusion

Some people experience no symptoms in pleural effusion. These people mostly get diagnosed for this condition through chest X-ray or physical examinations done to know more about the amount of fluid. According to Dr. Arun, here are the most common symptoms of pleural effusion:

Pleural effusion causes


There are several factors behind bilateral pleural effusion. As per Dr. Arun, here are the main causes of this condition:

  • Kidney failure
  • Infection
  • Cirrhosis
  • Trauma
  • Leakage from the organs
  • Cancer
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Pulmonary embolism

Bilateral pleural effusion treatment

The main requirement is to treat the underlying medical condition that causes the pleural effusion. For example, the doctor would prescribe antibiotics for pneumonia, along with some lifestyle changes to treat large, infected, or inflamed pleural effusions and there is a need to get it drained to help you feel better and prevent further complications.  According to Dr. Arun, rocedures for treating pleural effusions include:

1. Thoracentesis is done when the effusion is large and your doctor will try to drain more fluid than they need for testing, just to manage the symptoms of this condition.

2. Tube thoracostomy is done using a chest tube when your doctor makes a small cut in your chest wall and puts a plastic tube into your pleural space for a few days.

3. Pleural drain is done when the pleural effusions keep coming back, your doctor might put a long-term catheter in your skin inside the pleural space. And, the pleural effusion can be then drained at home. Your doctor will tell you how and when to do that.

4. Pleurodesis is when the doctor injects an irritating substance through a chest tube into the pleural space. The substance helps in inflaming the pleura and chest wall, which then is packed to each other as they get treated. Pleurodesis can prevent future pleural effusions from coming back in a lot of cases.

5. When surgeons operate inside the pleural space, it is called pleural decortication. It is the treatment for potentially harmful inflammation and unhealthy tissue. To do this, the surgeon qill make small cuts (thoracoscopy) or a large one (thoracotomy).

These were the symptoms, causes and treatment of bilateral pleural effusions by Dr. Arun Chowdary Kotaru. The two main types of pleural effusions are transudative and exudative effusions. The doctor may make the diagnosis by doing an ultrasound to locate the fluid so they can get a sample for further analysis. If you experience any of the above listed symptoms, then it is best to talk to a doctor. Meanwhile, talking about Dilip Saab, the 98 year old actor had complained of breathing issues earlier and is now being treated in a hospital.

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