The pleura is a large sheet of thin tissue that surrounds the lungs and lines the chest cavity. This tissue consists of two layers with a pleural space between them that is filled with a small amount of fluid to help the layers glide against each other during breathing. Pleural disorders are conditions that affect the pleura or pleural space and lead to infection or inflammation.
Types of Pleural Disorders
There are a few main types of pleural disorders, including:
- Pleurisy – Inflammation of the pleura.
- Pleural effusion – A buildup of fluid in the pleural space.
- Pneumothorax – Excess air or gas in the pleural space.
- Chylothorax – Lymphatic fluid (chyle) leaks into the pleura.
- Mesothelioma – The presence of a tumor in the pleural space.
What Causes Pleural Disorders?
The causes of each pleural disorder will vary, but the most common cause is some form of trauma, injury or infection affecting the chest or lungs. You will have a higher chance of developing a pleural disorder if you:
- Had a recent chest surgery involving the heart or lungs
- Had a chest or lung infection such as pneumonia or tuberculosis
- Have experienced a lung injury
- Have lung cancer or congestive heart failure
Understanding the Signs of Pleural Disorders
Most pleural disorders exhibit similar symptoms, including:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Unexplained weight loss
- Chronic cough
If you notice any of the signs listed above, it’s best to see your medical provider to get an accurate understanding of what is causing your symptoms.
Diagnosing Pleural Disorders
Pleural disorders are diagnosed by a medical professional who will conduct a thorough examination of a patient’s medical history and symptoms before confirming the diagnosis with an imaging scan or other tests. These may include:
- A chest X-ray
- A CT scan
- Blood tests
How Are Pleural Disorders Treated?
Because the cause and symptoms of each pleural disorder may vary, so too will the individual treatment. Most treatment options will involve either draining air or fluid with a tube or needle (thoracentesis) or surgery to remove the diseased pleura (decortication).
The expert lung and pulmonary specialists at Tampa General Hospital diagnose and effectively treat a wide range of pleural disorders. We utilize many industry-leading surgical and non-surgical methods and can develop a personalized treatment plan for every patient.