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When an abnormal amount of fluid accumulates in the space between the 2 layers of the pleura (the membrane that lines the surface of the lungs), it is called a pleural effusion. It is estimated that 1 million people in the United States develop a pleural effusion each year. About 20% to 60% of the people who develop pneumonia have a pleural effusion. A pleural effusion can also occur due to an extrapulmonary (outside the lungs) cause. Treatment depends on the underlying cause. The January 21, 2009, issue of JAMA includes an article about diagnosing pleural effusions.
To find this and other JAMA Patient Pages, go to the Patient Page link on JAMA's Web site at http://www.jama.com. Many are available in English and Spanish. A Patient Page on lung cancer was published in the March 7, 2007, issue, one on pulmonary embolism in the December 3, 2003, issue, and one on heart failure in the June 13, 2007, issue.
Hildreth CJ, Lynm C, Glass RM. Pleural Effusion. JAMA. 2009;301(3):344. doi:10.1001/jama.301.3.344
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