Pleura is a thin lining around the lung and the fluid that accumulates between the lung and the pleura is called pleural effusion. Pleural effusion is a common cause of shortness of breath. Pleural effusions can occur as a result of both benign and malignant conditions. The initial step in identifying the cause of the effusion is drainage and analysis of fluid. The following services are offered for patients with pleural effusion:
Thoracentesis – this commonly performed procedure involves drainage of pleural effusion with a small flexible catheter. Procedure is commonly performed in clinic or in the hospital room. Procedure is always conducted under ultrasound guidance, which helps minimize complications. Anesthesia is achieved with local lidocaine.
Tunneled pleural catheter, also known as pleurx, is a flexible long term catheter which is inserted under the skin and allows patients to drain pleural effusion at home. Patients with terminal malignancies can spend more time in the comfort of their own home rather than coming into the hospital for drainage. The catheter is inserted under ultrasound guidance with local lidocaine. Patients can usually go home on the same day. We work closely with social work to provide patients and their families with the educational materials and the necessary home services to care for the pleurx catheter.
Medical thoracoscopy (pleuroscopy) is a procedure that involves direct visualization of pleural surface using a camera through a single small incision. Procedure is performed with local lidocaine under conscious sedation. During the procedure, operator can obtain pleural biopsies and instill medication that, akin to glue, results in fusion of the two pleural surfaces, thereby not allowing effusion to accumulate. This procedure is called pleurodesis, and commonly requires a short hospital stay. Medical thoracoscopy offers a minimally invasive alternative to VATS - a commonly performed surgical procedure that involves general anesthesia and multiple incisions.
If you have been diagnosed with pleural effusion, please give us a call to explore available treatment options.