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Pleurisy is when the lining of your lungs (pleura) becomes irritated or swollen. The pleura are 2 thin layers of tissue that surround your lungs and line the inside of your chest cavity. There is a small amount of fluid between the pleura that helps the layers move easily when you breathe. When the pleura is irritated or swollen, the layers rub together as you breathe.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.


  • When extra fluid collects in the space between the pleura, it can cause a pleural effusion. This can get infected or cause you to have trouble breathing. The extra fluid may need to be drained with a needle or a chest tube. A pleural effusion can be life-threatening.

  • Without treatment, pleurisy may cause or worsen a lung infection, such as pneumonia. Sometimes pleurisy causes scarring of the tissues as it heals. These are called adhesions. Adhesions can cause permanent breathing problems.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.


Keep the head of your bed raised to help you breathe easier. You can also raise your head and shoulders up on pillows or rest in a reclining chair. If you feel short of breath, let caregivers know right away.

Heart monitor:

This is also called an ECG or EKG. Sticky pads placed on your skin record your heart's electrical activity.

Pulse oximeter:

A pulse oximeter is a device that measures the amount of oxygen in your blood. A cord with a clip or sticky strip is placed on your finger, ear, or toe. The other end of the cord is hooked to a machine. Never turn the pulse oximeter or alarm off. An alarm will sound if your oxygen level is low or cannot be read.


You may need one or more of the following tests:

  • Blood tests: You may need blood taken to give caregivers information about how your body is working. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.

  • Sputum sample: Sputum (mucus from your lungs) is collected in a cup when you cough. The sample is sent to a lab to be tested for the germ that is causing your illness. It can also help your caregiver choose the best medicine to treat the infection.

  • Chest x-ray: This is a picture of your lungs. Caregivers use it to look for signs of infection or for extra fluid in your lungs.

  • CT scan: This is also called a CAT scan. An x-ray machine uses a computer to take pictures of your lungs. You may be given dye in your IV before the pictures are taken. The dye helps your caregivers see the pictures better. Tell the caregiver if you are allergic to iodine or shellfish.

  • Ultrasound: An ultrasound uses sound waves to show pictures of your lungs on a monitor. This test is used to look for extra fluid in between your pleura.

  • Telemetry is continuous monitoring of your heart rhythm. Sticky pads placed on your skin connect to an EKG machine that records your heart rhythm.


  • Antibiotics: This medicine is used if your pleurisy is caused by a bacteria. It will help fight infection. Take your antibiotics until they are gone, even if you feel better.

  • Steroids: This medicine may be given to decrease inflammation.

  • Cough medicine: This medicine helps decrease your urge to cough. A cough suppressant may help if a dry cough is causing you pain.

  • NSAIDs: NSAIDs may decrease swelling and pain or fever. This medicine can be bought with or without a doctor's order. This medicine can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. Always read the medicine label and follow the directions before you use this medicine.

  • Pain medicine: You may be given a prescription medicine to decrease severe pain if other pain medicines do not work. Take the medicine as directed. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine.


  • You may need extra oxygen if your blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. You may get oxygen through a mask placed over your nose and mouth or through small tubes placed in your nostrils. Ask your healthcare provider before you take off the mask or oxygen tubing.

  • Thoracentesis: A thoracentesis is a treatment to take fluid or air out of your chest. You are given numbing medicine before a needle is put between two of your ribs. The needle is then put through the chest wall. The air or fluid is sucked out through the needle. You may breathe easier when the fluid or air is removed.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.