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How will my doctor diagnose pleural effusion?

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Your doctor will talk to you about your symptoms and give you a physical examination. She will listen to your chest with a stethoscope and tap on your chest.

Most often, doctors will confirm pleural effusions on imaging tests. You may get:

Your doctor might also do something called thoracentesis. She’ll take a little bit of the fluid to test. To do this, she’ll insert a needle and a tube called a catheter between your ribs, into the pleural space.

  • Chest X-ray: Pleural effusions appear white on chest X-rays, while air space looks black. If a pleural effusion is likely, you may get more X-ray films while you lie on your side. These can show if the fluid flows freely within the pleural space.
  • Computed tomography (CT scan): A CT scanner takes many X-rays quickly, and a computer constructs images of the entire chest -- inside and out. CT scans show more detail than chest X-rays do.
  • Ultrasound: A probe on your chest will create images of the inside of your body, which show up on a video screen. It can be used to locate the fluid so your doctor can get a sample for analysis.

From: What Is a Pleural Effusion? WebMD Medical Reference

SOURCES:

Mason, R. , 5th edition, Saunders, 2010. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine

Lab Tests Online, “Pleural Fluid Analysis.”

National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: “What Is Pulmonary Embolism?”

Mayo Clinic: “Heart failure.”

Reviewed by Louise Chang on January 6, 2019

SOURCES:

Mason, R. , 5th edition, Saunders, 2010. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine

Lab Tests Online, “Pleural Fluid Analysis.”

National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: “What Is Pulmonary Embolism?”

Mayo Clinic: “Heart failure.”

Reviewed by Louise Chang on January 6, 2019

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What are the two types of pleural effusion?

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