What Are Different Treatment Options for Fluid on the Lungs?

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In some cases, fluid on the lungs, or pleural effusion, is dealt with by treating the cause of the fluid build-up, such as pneumonia or congestive heart failure, according to WebMD. In urgent cases, doctors must drain the fluid. Other procedures address severe inflammation and prevent recurrence.

Pneumonia is often treated with antibiotics, states WebMD. The fluid goes away as the infection improves. If water collects in the lungs due to heart failure, diuretics help the body remove it through the urine.

To address the condition more quickly, a doctor sticks a needle through the chest wall into the area around the lungs — the pleural space — and fluid is sucked out, MedlinePlus explains. If a more long-term solution is needed, a chest tube is inserted into the pleural space and connected to suction, says WebMD. With this procedure, fluid is often drawn out for several days.

Pleurodesis helps prevent pleural effusion from returning, WebMD reports. Doctors introduce an irritant such as talc into the pleural space through a chest tube. The irritation causes inflammation, and this makes the outside of the lungs to stick the chest wall during healing. Consequently, less space is available for extra fluid. If fluid build-up is an on-going problem, a catheter is introduced into the pleural space, and the patient is able to drain fluid at home.

When excess fluids cause inflammation and injury, surgeons perform pleural decortication to remove damaged tissue, relates WebMD. Sometimes a single large incision is used, but, in other cases, only a few small openings are needed.