The lungs and chest cavity are covered by layers of tissue called the pleural space. A pleural effusion is when fluid builds up in these tissues. It is normal to have fluid in the chest cavity for lubrication and facilitating smooth movement, but having too much can be very dangerous. This usually happens as a result of another serious condition. Smoking, alcohol consumption, high blood pressure or contact with asbestos are factors that place a person at higher risk for this condition. Pleural effusion can result in serious complications including damage to the lungs, an abscess resulting from infection, air pockets in the chest cavity and scarring to the lining of the lungs.
Information. The fluid can be separated into two categories, transudate or exudate. Transudate is made up of plasma and is usually caused by conditions such as cirrhosis or congestive heart failure which can create high blood pressure or low levels of protein in the blood. Exudate results from lung infections or cancers and are more difficult to treat. Lung injury, tumors, inflammation or blocked blood vessels are common causes of this type. The fluid can be categorized further as uncomplicated or complicated. Uncomplicated pleural effusions occur when fluid is present but there is no sign of inflammation or infection. Permanent problems are less likely in these cases. Complicated pleural effusions require immediate medical treatment and are caused by infections or inflammation and are much more serious.