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Lung diseases

Hardening Gel Fluid in Lungs

05/06/2010

Question:

My mother in law has suffered with pneumonia several times this past winter. She had a pace maker put in back around Dec./Jan., then a couple wks after the pace maker she took a very hard fall down the steps where she landed chest down on a hard wood floor & suffered a broken collar bone, bruising & severe soreness. After the fall she pretty much stayed in bed & ended up developing a blood clot in Feb. In between all of these hospital visits she has had pneumonia about 3-4 times/been in the hospital and is now on oxygen at home since about mid March. We have recently been told that the fluid in her lung has hardened into a gel & therefore decreased her lung productivity and caused her breathing problems. She has also been told that she has to have surgery. She can`t remember or read the Dr`s writing on what she has been diagnosed with & has not been able to advise us w/the name of the surgery-only that the dr`s have told her it`s serious surgery & she`s really worried about it. We are trying to figure out what she has & exactly what is going on but I`m having problems searching trying to find anything regarding fluid/gel in the lungs & a surgery used to correct this. Could you pls advs.

Answer:

It is difficult to know the details of your mother-in-law's situation, but there are several potential causes for the collection of fluid in the chest cavity that compresses the lung tissue.  Depending on the type of fluid, sometimes the fluid can indeed become gelatinous and may require surgical removal.  This is typically performed by a surgical procedure known as a thoracotomy and may involve a decortication procedure which involves "stripping away" some of the inside lining of the chest wall and lung in order to "free up" any compressed lung tissue. 

For the specific requirements of your relative's case, I would suggest you directly discuss the situation in conference with her and her physician.

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Response by:

David  R Nunley, MD, FCCP David R Nunley, MD, FCCP
Former Associate Professor
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University