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Center for Thoracic Oncology

Diseases & Conditions

Pleural Diseases

At Boston Medical Center's Center for Thoracic Oncology, we treat a broad range of conditions, including pleural diseases. We combine medical excellence, technologically advanced facilities and equipment, and a patient-centered approach to provide fast, accurate diagnoses and effective treatments.

What are Pleural Diseases?

The pleura is the membrane that lines your thoracic (chest) cavity and covers your lungs. It is a large sheet of tissue that wraps around the outside of your lungs and lines the inside of your chest cavity. There is a small space between the layers of your pleura, which contains a small amount of fluid that serves as a lubricant for the two layers of the pleura. There are several types of pleural diseases, including:

  • Pleurisy, which is an infection of the pleural cavity
  • Pleural effusion, which is the buildup of pleural fluid in the pleural cavity
  • Pneumothorax, which is the presence of air or gas in the pleural cavity
  • Hemothorax, which is the presence of blood in the pleural cavity
  • Pleural tumors

What are the Symptoms of Pleural Diseases?

Symptoms of pleural diseases vary based on the kind and severity. Typically, pleural effusion causes no symptoms.

Symptoms of pleurisy may include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • A cough
  • Fever and chills
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Sore throat that is followed by joint swelling and soreness

Symptoms of pneumothorax include:

  • Sudden sharp pain that worsens with deep breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness
  • Fatigue
  • Fast heart rate
  • Bluish skin color (called cyanosis)

Symptoms of hemothorax may include:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Respiratory failure
  • A rapid heart rate
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness

Symptoms of pleural tumors may include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • General discomfort
  • Cough
  • Unexplained weight loss

What Causes Pleural Diseases?

Causes of pleurisy include:

  • Viral, bacterial, and fungal infections
  • Lung cancer
  • Other lung diseases, such as carcoidosis, asbestosis, lymphangioleiomyomatosis, and mesothelioma
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Familial Mediterranean fever
  • Parasites
  • Heart surgery
  • Chest injury (trauma)
  • Reaction to certain medications

Causes of pleural effusion include:

  • Congestive heart failure
  • Lung cancer
  • Pneumonia
  • Tuberculosis, asbestosis, sarcoidosis, and reactions to medications

Causes of pneumothorax may include:

  • Bulla, which is a large distended air space
  • Lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Tuberculosis
  • Surgery
  • Trauma

Causes of hemothorax include:

  • Chest trauma
  • Lung and pleural cancer
  • Chest or heart surgery

For some pleural tumors, the cause is unknown. Known causes of pleural tumors may include cancer that has spread to the pleural space.

How are pleural diseases diagnosed? 
Learn how pleural diseases may be treated

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Fax: 617.638.7382

Boston Medical Center
Center for Thoracic Oncology
Moakley Building
830 Harrison Avenue, 3rd Floor
Boston, MA 02118

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Call: 617.638.5600
Fax: 617.638.7382

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88 East Newton Street,
Robinson B-402
Boston, MA 02118
Call: 617.638.5600
Fax: 617.638.7382

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