My sister-in-law had a triple bypass surgery a year and a half ago. We all watched her change from this frail person to someone who was more energetic than a normal 60-year-old. We were all happy that she recovered completely within one month and was able to do everything by herself without any help.
Lately, she has started coughing all the time and was told by her cardiologist that was because of the ACE inhibitors she was taking post surgery. But over time she started having shortness of breath and couldn't take but two steps without struggling. This time she went to the doctors to get to the bottom of the problem. She was diagnosed with pleural effusion.
Pleural effusion is the abnormal increase of fluid in the space between the chest wall and the lungs. The pleural cavity is the space between the chest wall and the lungs that secretes a small amount of fluid in order to avoid friction between the lungs and the chest wall. But a number of health conditions cause this fluid build up abnormally causing complications such as shortness of breath and coughing.
There are two types of pleural effusion including transudative pleural effusion and exudative pleural effusion. Transudative pleural effusion is caused by failure of the left ventricle in the heart due to post surgical complications, pulmonary embolism, cirrhosis, or other conditions. Exudative pleural effusion is the result of leaky blood vessels due to lung diseases, infections, tuberculosis, bacterial pneumonia, pulmonary embolism, breast or lung cancer, etc. This condition may be caused by the use of certain medications and treatments for arthritis, lupus, diseases of the pancreas, liver, or kidneys, or fungal or viral infections.
Treatments and diagnosis: The common ways of diagnosing pleural effusion include chest X-rays, ultrasound or computed tomography, and removal of and lab work on the fluids from the lungs. The treatments includes chemical or surgical removal of the fluids is called pleurodesis. Sometimes, pleural effusion may indicate the presence of cancer. Patients who are diagnosed with cancers are usually treated with chemotherapy, radiation therapy or surgery. For patients who have pleural effusion because of post-cardiac surgical complications, they will be treated with diuretics. Conditions such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, infections, and arthritis are treated with medications.
Symptoms and signs of pleural effusion include shortness of breath and chest pain due to compression of the lungs and cough. Weakness, not being able to eat or taste foods, and fatigue are the major concerns that my sister-in-law has right now. She is going to have a PET (positron emission tomography) scan to find out where her cancer is originating from and how they could treat her. I can only hope for the best for her and be at her bedside while she undergoes this procedure to give her support and strength. It is hard to watch someone in the family go through any health complications especially when it might involve cancer. Semi-annual checkups for post surgical patients, medications and proper food is very important along with the support and love from the family because, OUR LIFE MATTERS.