Pleural Effusions

What is a pleural effusion?

A pleural effusion is when fluid builds up between the tissue that lines the outer surface of the lungs and the inside of the rib cage. This is known as the pleural cavity.

It can cause shortness of breath, sharp chest pain and a dry cough, amongst other symptoms. It is common for people with pleural mesothelioma and pleural thickening to develop pleural effusions.

Whilst you may be able to claim compensation for mesothelioma or pleural thickening, you could also be able to claim compensation for a pleural effusion on its own as it can be caused by exposure to asbestos dust.

What causes a pleural effusion?

There are a number of conditions which can cause pleural effusions or present themselves as such:-

  • Asbestos exposure can cause pleural effusions and may be a sign of mesothelioma or asbestos-related diffuse pleural thickening;
  • Congestive heart failure;
  • Pneumonia;
  • Liver cirrhosis;
  • End-stage kidney disease.

What are the symptoms of pleural effusions?

Symptoms of a pleural effusion include:

  • Shortness of breath;
  • A dry cough;
  • Sharp chest pain;
  • Fever.

How is a pleural effusion diagnosed?

A doctor can diagnose your pleural effusion using an x-ray or CT scan. If more than 300ml of fluid has collected in the lung it will be visible on an x-ray. However, if less fluid has collected it may be difficult for experts to see. A CT scan can often reveal a clearer picture and assist with diagnosis.

Once you have been diagnosed with a pleural effusion, doctors may take a sample of fluid from your pleural cavity for testing (know as a cytology). To do this, they will insert a thin needle into the chest, remove the fluid and send it for analysis.  By testing the fluid, they can determine what has caused the effusion.

How can a pleural effusion be treated?

You can treat a pleural effusion in a number of ways. For example, a thoracentesis procedure can remove the fluid and alleviate symptoms. However, this does not address the cause of the effusion.

A treatment which can provide a more effective solution to the fluid build-up is a pleurodesis procedure. During this procedure, doctors remove fluid from the lung through thoracentesis. They then fill the two layers of the lung (the pleural lining) with talc. This reduces irritation, inflammation and scarring and fuses the two layers together. By closing the space, there is nowhere for fluid to build in the future.

A pleurodesis is a painful procedure which can cause complications. Patients often have to stay in hospital for observation following the procedure. Despite this, in the long-term, many patients find it to be a worthwhile procedure, which can alleviate breathlessness and other symptoms associated with a pleural effusion. If your pleural effusion is asbestos-related then you may be able to claim compensation for the pain and suffering that a pleurodesis procedure causes.

It is quite common for the pleurodesis procedure to be carried out alongside a pleural biopsy procedure where samples are extracted for testing. The results of this biopsy can confirm whether you are suffering from a benign effusion, which can be asbestos-related, or with a malignant asbestos-related disease such as mesothelioma.


On their own, pleural effusions are often not life-threatening and may disappear spontaneously after a few months. However, pleural effusions can also recur over time and can be a sign that a person is suffering with pleural thickening or mesothelioma.

It is important to seek medical advice if you develop the symptoms of a pleural effusion, because without treatment you may develop a collapsed lung. It is also vital to seek medical attention early if you develop this problem and have been exposed to asbestos dust in the past, as it could be a sign that you are suffering with another asbestos-related condition.

Claiming asbestos compensation for a pleural effusion

If you have been diagnosed with a pleural effusion, you may be able to claim compensation. We have succeeded in many asbestos-related pleural effusion claims where our clients have recovered asbestos compensation. We are able to settle such asbestos claims on a provisional damages basis. This leaves the door open for our clients to claim further asbestos compensation if they develop any further asbestos-related health problems in the future, triggering a further so called “return claim” for asbestos disease compensation.

No win, no fee claim

We deal with all asbestos-related pleural effusion claims on a no win, no fee basis. After reviewing your medical records we will be able to assess the prospects of succeeding in this type of asbestos claim on your behalf.

How can we help?

If you require assistance in pursuing an asbestos-related pleural effusion claim, or believe you have a valid claim for  any other asbestos disease, then please contact us today on our freephone number 0800 038 6767. Alternatively, head over to the Contact Us page, complete the form and we will be in touch.