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Mary asked...

Following a recent CT scan I was told that I had a posterior effusion on my left lung. What is this and is it serious as I have now developed a persistent dry cough.

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The Answer

A pleural effusion is simply a collection of fluid lying next to your lung. The outer lining of your lung and the inner lining of your ribs glide over each other every time you breathe. There is normally a small amount of fluid between these two layers to help lubricate the layers (pleura) as they move over each other. If excess fluid builds up, it is called a pleural effusion. It can irritate the lung, causing a cough, or it can cause breathlessness by pressing on the lungs and reducing the space available for oxygen to be absorbed into the body. It can also cause chest pain, but this is less common.

Pleural effusions can be caused by a chest infection such as pneumonia. Less commonly, they can be due to lung cancer, tuberculosis, conditions causing inflammation elsewhere in the body (such as rheumatoid arthritis) or low levels of protein in the blood. I am sure that your doctor will be looking into the possible causes. The most likely cause is the aftermath of a chest infection, and the effusion should settle in time if this is the case.

 Answered by Dr Sarah Jarvis

 

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