Surgery is far from the only option to treat pleural effusions, according to WebMD. A variety of non-surgical techniques can be used. Pleural effusion caused by a disease such as pneumonia, for example, may only take a course of antibiotics to clear.
Other ways to treat pleural effusions include thoracentesis, says MedlinePlus. This is a procedure in which a needle is inserted into the pleural space around the lungs and fluid is drawn out. The patient can also have a tube thoracotomy, in which a tube is put into the pleural space and fluid is suctioned out by a machine, indicates WebMD. Surgery is performed when there is a great deal of inflammation and necrotizing tissue.