Pericardial and Pleural Effusions

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Submitted by Dr T on May 5, 2013 – 6:38pm

I have had sinus inflammation/infections since November.  For the past three weeks, I have become breathless when walking/talking and also woke up at night not being able to take a deep breath.  Pain by the sternum when taking a deep breath started.  My Dr. Did a breathing test which showed my lung capacity was 60% of normal  I was put on nebulized meds. I used them for one week but they did not help at all.  I was getting worse.  My doctor ordered a ct of the chest.  I had the ct done this past Thursday.  The radiologist had me stay while he contacted my doctor.  I was at the cardiologist office two hours later having an echo and in the hospital Thursday night.  I had the effusion drained yesterday.
Is one liter considered a lot of fluid?
Could there be a relationship between chronically inflamed sinuses and the effusion?

Hi Amy, 

Re: Questions 1&2: Yes! The next question is to diagnose the cause of this pericardial effusion. The drainage only takes care of some of the symptoms, but for final treatment your doctor needs to find out what caused it and then try to eliminate the cause:

Pericarditis & pericardial effusion can result from one or more of these:

  • a viral, bacterial or fungal infection
  • heart attack
  • cancer spreading from a nearby tumor in the lung, breast or the blood
  • radiation treatment
  • injury or surgery

Sometimes it accompanies other diseases like rheumatoid arthritis (RA), lupus and kidney failure. In addition, there may be a Pleural Effusion as well.

In your case, I’d consider a viral illness related to your chronic sinus inflammation/infections. Your recovery depends on what treatment is needed. Infections and inflammations such as caused by RA take much longer to heal and can be more difficult to diagnose, because the effusion is usually only one of several manifestations of the primary disease.

Hope this helps,

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