The most common treatment to relieve an excess build up of fluid in the chest cavity is called a thoracentesis.

Normally, mere teaspoons of watery fluid are present in the pleural space, allowing the lungs to move smoothly within the chest cavity during breathing.  But sometimes fluid can build up (called pleural effusion) in this space. Pleural effusion can result from many medical conditions including cancer, pneumonia, congestive heart failure, blood clots in the lungs, autoimmune conditions and other conditions. Most pleural effusions are not serious. Some require treatment, while others will resolve on their own.

Pleural effusion often causes no symptoms. Symptoms are more likely when a pleural effusion is moderate or large-sized, or if inflammation is present. Symptoms of pleural effusions may include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain, especially on breathing in deeply (pleurisy, or pleuritic pain)
  • Fever
  • Cough

The most common treatment to relieve pleural effusion is to simply drain the fluid using thoracentesis. Interventional pulmonologists numb the skin, insert a needle through the chest wall and remove the fluid.