Treatments for pleural effusion

Pleural effusion, or “water on the lungs” as is sometimes referred, is an excessive build-up of fluid between your lungs and chest cavity. It can cause shortness of breath and, to relieve the breathing difficulties, you may require one of the following treatments.

Pleural Aspiration

Pleural aspiration is a short procedure to remove a reasonable amount of fluid from the chest in one go. It inolves using a small needle to insert a small tube into the fluid. This is then connected to a collecting bag and the fluid is allowed to drain.

Chest Drain and Talc

A chest drain and talc is a short procedure where a small tube (the ‘drain’) is inserted into the fluid that then connects to a collecting bottle. The drain stays in place for a few days before being removed. This means you will be admitted into hospital.

When most of the fluid has been drained away, liquid glue (a substance called ‘talc’ mixed with water) can be injected through the drain to try and stick the lung to the rib cage and prevent the fluid from coming back again. This is called ‘pleurodesis’.

Indwelling Pleural Catheter (IPC)

An Indwelling Pleural Catheter (IPC) is a emi-permanent drain that stays in place and is managed at home by patients, their family or community nurses until the drain is no longer needed. This could a few weeks, a few months or even years. It is a short procedure with no hospital stay required.

IPCs can be used instead of a talc pleurodesis or if a talc pleurodesis has been tried before but the fluid has built up again causing breathing difficulties and needs to be drained again.

Indwelling Pleural Catheter and Talc

For this procedure, liquid glue (a substance called ‘talc’ mixed with water) can be injected through an IPC once most of the fluid has been removed. This usually happens a couple of weeks after the drain has been inserted. This can be done without a hospital stay required.

For more information about plueral effusion and the possible treatments, please visit: mypleuraleffusionjourney.com.

Thank you to Manchester University Hospital NHS Trust for allowing us to feature this information.