What are complications of pleurisy?

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  • General: In most cases, pleurisy causes no long-term problems once the underlying cause is treated. Complications may arise in certain patients, however, and depending on the cause, symptoms may recur.

    Pleural effusions: Pleural effusions are the accumulation of fluid between the pleura. This can be caused by excess production of fluid or a decrease in the draining of fluid. It is possible for a pleural effusion to decrease pain because the fluid may cushion the inflamed pleura. But it may result in other serious complications. When fluid builds up, pressure is put on the lungs causing breathing difficulties, coughing, and cyanosis, which is bluish discoloration of the skin due to a decrease in oxygen delivery to the blood.

    Collapsed lung: Thoracentesis and video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS), if not performed correctly, may cause the lung to collapse or deflate. The chest cavity fills up with air and interferes with the normal transfer of oxygen to the blood. Another name for this phenomenon is pneumothorax.

    Pleural fibrosis: Although it is rare, pleural fibrosis may occur due to inflammation or exposure to asbestos. Pleural fibrosis is the thickening of the pleura that causes scarring and impairs function. This increases the chance of further problems and death.

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