Pleural fluid (fluid in the lungs)

Easily explained !

Simple and short

The most common causes of pleural fluid

  • Cancer
  • Heart failure
  • Pneumonia

Symptoms of pleural fluid

  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain/pressure across the chest
  • Coughing

Synonyms for pleural fluid

  • Pleural effusion
  • Water in the lungs
  • Fluid in the lungs

How to treat pleural fluid

  • One-time draining (puncture)
  • Pleurodes (talc/mepakrin)
  • Remaining pleural catheter for drainage

Pleura (pleural sac)

The pleura is a thin membrane in the chest made up of two membranes, which are also called leaves. The inner leaflet surrounds the lung and is called the pleura viscerale. The outer leaflet lines the inside of the chest wall and is called the pleura parietale. Between these two leaves is the pleural cavity. The pleural cavity contains a few millimetres of fluid, allowing the two blades to slide together when you breathe. Much like two sheets of glass with a film of liquid between them.

Illustration of the lung with pleura (pleural sac) and pleura parietale and pleura visceral.

What is pleural fluid?

Pleural fluid means that the pleura (pleural sac), which we have described above, fills up with more fluid than normal. In a healthy person, there are a few millilitres of fluid in the pleural cavity to allow the two pleura sheets to move painlessly.

In a person suffering from pleural fluid, the fluid in the pleura surrounding the lungs fills up. When the fluid reaches a certain amount, it affects breathing, as the lung can no longer fully expand due to the fluid.

Why does pleural fluid occur?

There are various diseases that can cause pleural fluid. In a long list of diseases, the most common cause of pleural effusion is cancer (malignant tumour). Heart failureor lung inflammation (pneumonia) can also cause pleural fluid.

Lung cancer followed by breast cancer are the most common causes of a malignant (arising from a malignant tumour) pleural effusion.

Illustration of the lung with pleural fluid.

Before I got drainova, I dropped 1-2 times/week and had 5 kilometer to the hospital. Since I received my drainova a month ago, I have not had to go to the hospital. It’s so important to be able to take advantage of the time at home and avoid hospitalisation. When I come to the hospital I am reminded that I am sick, but when I can be at home I don’t feel sick.

– Lotta from Kalmar / pleural fluid (cancer) –

How to treat pleural fluid?

There are various treatment options to treat recurrent pleural fluid:

Pleural drainage (pleural puncture or toracocentesis)

During a pleural drainage, the fluid that has collected through a cannula is withdrawn with a syringe. This is an outpatient procedure, which is often performed in a hospital clinic. When the fluid fills up again, you have to go back to the hospital to have a new pleural tap.


Depending on the underlying disease and the nature of the fluid, recurrent (recurrent) fluid can be counteracted with a chemical pleurodesis treatment. An agent, usually talc or mepakrin, is injected into the pleural cavity to cause inflammation. If the treatment is successful, the pleura leafs stick together and the fluid stops filling the pleural cavity. This is called a pleurodes.

Pleurodesis treatment requires up to a week’s stay in hospital.

Remaining catheter

At ewimed, we recommend immediate implantation of an indwelling pleural catheter in case of recurrent pleural effusion. Getting the catheter early increases the chance of spontaneous pleurodesis.

An indwelling catheter has a great advantage for the patient. You don’t have to go to the hospital repeatedly for the doctor to puncture and apply a one-time drainage. It is also possible to get spontaneous pleurodesisby draining fluids regularly. Spontaneous pleurodesis means that the fluid stops filling up.

The patient thus has more time at his or her disposal, as the fluid can be drained at home without the need for a doctor to be present. This increases the patient’s mobility and quality of life.

Other benefits of an indwelling catheter include fewer hospital stays, low risk of infection and complications.

More information about the catheter

Brief overview of the benefits of our indwelling catheters

  • enables independent, fast and patient-safe drainage at home.
  • no further hospitalisation due to the liquid
  • simple and easy to use
  • no repeated, painful punctures
  • a single minimally invasive procedure to implant the catheter
  • highest patient safety thanks to the unique connection to the drainage set
  • increased mobility and independence for you as a patient
  • reduced risk of infection
  • high level of spontaneous pleurodesis in pleural effusion without further intervention

Important information

The European and American medical organisations in thoracic surgery and pulmonary medicine also recommend implanting a tunneled retained pleural catheter in case of recurrent fluid since 2018. The reason is that it provides effective symptom relief and reduced hospital stays with good chances of a pleurodesis. (Sources: Europa USA)

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