Diagnosis, treatment, and medical malpractice involving pleural effusion

One of the expected potential post-operative complications of the patient who’s had a heart valve replacement surgery is pleural effusion. This is a medical condition that laypeople sometimes refer to as water on the lungs.

The changes to a patient’s cardiopulmonary status after heart valve surgery can cause the accumulation of fluid between the pleura (the tissue lining the lungs) in the chest. This is called pleural effusion. The buildup of fluid in this location makes it difficult to breathe by mechanically restricting the area that the affected lung needs to expand.

Healthcare professionals refer to pleural effusion as symptomatic when it causes the patient to experience symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing, or chest pain.

According to cardiovascular surgery experts, pleural effusion after a heart valve replacement isn’t always a permanent condition. Many patients stop experiencing pleural effusion after the body equilibrates and gets used to the new fully functioning heart valve.

Heart valve surgeries aren’t the only thing that can cause the 100,000 or so cases of pleural effusion that are diagnosed every year in the United States. Other causes are related to cardiac, lung, liver, or kidney issues.

Regardless of the cause, when a patient is having difficulty breathing or other symptoms related to pleural effusion, it requires fast action to prevent rapid deterioration. Because pleural effusion generally causes mechanical restriction of lung expansion, the goal of medical attention is to relieve the fluid.

Potential ways of removing the troublesome fluid would include placement of a chest tube or decompression (aspiration of fluid) by a needle.

Many patients with symptoms of pleural effusion present to an emergency room (ER) for care. The standard of care requires ER physicians and nurses to closely monitor these patients until there’s a diagnosis and definitive treatment is rendered to remove the fluid and restore baseline cardiopulmonary function.

The diagnostic process typically includes obtaining clinical information and ordering diagnostic radiographic tests such as an x-ray, CT scan, or ultrasound of the test. After the fluid is removed, it should be sent to the laboratory for analysis that can provide insights on the cause of the patient’s pleural effusion.

Pleural effusion patients aren’t the types of people who can be left waiting in the hallway or in a remote cubical in the ER. They need to be right in the line of sight of nursing staff who can get immediate medical attention if the patient starts to desaturate. A delay in placing a chest tube or otherwise relieving pleural effusion can lead to cardiac arrest, respiratory arrest, andac a permanent brain injury.

If you’ve been seriously injured because of poor hospital or medical care in Texas related to pleural effusion or any other issue, then contact a top-rated, experienced Houston, Texas medical malpractice lawyer for a free consultation of a potential case.

Robert Painter
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Robert Painter

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him for a free consultation and strategy session by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.