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Lung diseases

Fluid around lung

04/13/2009

Question:

Over a month ago my mother became ill and was diagnosed by family physician and given medication for fluid in lung, she passed out on us and was taken to the hospital where they ran MRI and xray of chest and lungs. They treated her for the fluid with breathing treatments and sent her home after being tested and diagnosed with low blood pressure from her parkinsons. Later she went back to her doctor for a checkup and still fluid, sent to specialist and her lung was collapsed and had been at the hospital. they have since drained the fluid and it has returned. A test was done on the fluid and no infection or abnormalities were noticed. This has been going on for two months or more now and we are getting concerned...she is to see a heart doctor this week. What kind of tests should i make sure are done and how agressive do i need to be with her doctor to make sure this does not continue to go on?

Answer:

You are describing what sounds like a pleural effusion - that is, a collection of fluid around the lung. There is a long list of things that can cause a pleural effusion. Probably the most common among them are heart failure, pneumonia and cancer. Testing is done on the fluid to see if it is more (a transudate) or less (an exudate) like water. If it is like water, it is almost always due to heart failure. If it is an exudate, then the type of white blood cells can help determine what it is. I would ask her doctor what they think is causing the fluid and if it was an exudate or a transudate.

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Response by:

James M O'Brien, Jr, MD James M O'Brien, Jr, MD
Former Associate Professor
Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University