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Pleural effusion

  • Alternative Names

    Fluid in the chest; Fluid on the lung; Pleural fluid

    • Chest pain, usually a sharp pain that is worse with cough or deep breaths
    • Cough
    • Fever
    • Hiccups
    • Rapid breathing
    • Shortness of breath

    Sometimes there are no symptoms.

    Signs and tests

    During a physical examination, the doctor will listen to the sound of your breathing with a stethoscope and may tap on your chest to listen for dullness.

    The following tests may help to confirm a diagnosis:

    • Chest CT scan
    • Chest x-ray
    • Pleural fluid analysis (examining the fluid under a microscope to look for bacteria, amount of protein, and presence of cancer cells)
    • Thoracentesis (a sample of fluid is removed with a needle inserted between the ribs)
    • Thoracic CT
    • Ultrasound of the chest