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Pediatric Pleural Effusion

Practice Essentials

Pleural effusion, which in pediatric patients most commonly results from an infection, is an abnormal collection of fluid in the pleural space. Pleural effusion develops because of excessive filtration or defective absorption of accumulated fluid. Pleural effusion may be a primary manifestation or a secondary complication of many disorders (see the images below). (See Etiology.)

Upright chest radiograph in a 3-year-old child wit

Upright chest radiograph in a 3-year-old child with dyspnea and fever obtained 1 day before the development of the pleural effusion reveals pneumonia on the left side.

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Upright chest radiograph in a 3-year-old child wit

Upright chest radiograph in a 3-year-old child with dyspnea and fever reveals a large opacity on the left, with obliteration of the left costophrenic angle and a fluid stripe.

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Posteroanterior view in a patient with reaccumulat

Posteroanterior view in a patient with reaccumulated pleural effusion in the left side of the chest.

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Complications

Complications are uncommon in properly treated parapneumonic effusions. Possible complications include respiratory failure caused by massive fluid accumulation, septicemia, bronchopleural fistula, pneumothorax, and pleural thickening. (See Prognosis, Treatment, and Medication.)

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