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Pleural Effusion


Pleural effusion is fluid buildup in the space between the layers of the pleura. The pleura are thin layers of tissue that form a 2-layered lining around the lungs. One layer of the pleura rests directly on the lungs. The other layer rests on the chest wall. There is normally a small amount of fluid called pleural fluid between these layers. This fluid helps your lungs move easily when you breathe.

The Lungs



You may need any of the following:

  • Diuretics may help decrease extra fluid caused by heart failure or other problems.
  • Antibiotics help prevent or treat an infection caused by bacteria.
  • NSAIDs help decrease swelling and pain or fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely.
  • Steroids or other types of medicines may be given to decrease swelling.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.


  • Hold a pillow over your chest when you cough to decrease your pain.
  • Do not smoke , and do not allow others to smoke around you. If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. Smoking increases your risk for lung infections such as pneumonia. Smoking also makes it harder for you to get better after having a lung problem. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you need help quitting.
  • Drink liquids as directed and rest as needed. Liquids help to keep your air passages moist and better able to get rid of germs and other irritants. Ask your healthcare provider how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. You may feel like resting more. Slowly start to do more each day. Rest when you feel it is needed.
  • Deep breathing and coughing will decrease your risk for a lung infection. Take a deep breath and hold it for as long as you can. Let the air out and then cough strongly. Deep breaths help open your airway. You may be given an incentive spirometer to help you take deep breaths. Put the plastic piece in your mouth and take a slow, deep breath. Then let the air out and cough. Repeat these steps 10 times every hour.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.
  • Your breathing problems do not go away or get worse.
  • Your pain does not go away or gets worse.
  • You cough up yellow, green, gray, or bloody mucus.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • You feel faint, or you cannot think clearly.
  • Your lips or fingernails turn blue.
  • You find it very hard to breathe.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Pleural Effusion (Aftercare Instructions)

Associated drugs

Micromedex® Care Notes