What is the role of the pleural space in respiration?

Updated: Dec 28, 2018
  • Author: Kamran Boka, MD, MS; Chief Editor: Guy W Soo Hoo, MD, MPH  more...
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Playing a vital role in respiration, the potential space of the pleural cavity in healthy patients conjoins the natural outward movement of the chest wall to that of the natural inward movement of the lungs via two mechanisms. First, the potential space's relative vacuum sustains the visceral and parietal pleurae's extreme adherence and is uninterrupted and not disrupted. Second, a diminutive volume of pleural fluid (calculated at 0.13 mL/kg of body weight under normal situations) serves as the lubricant to facilitate the normal physiologic sliding motion of both pleural surfaces against each other during inspiration and expiration. [2] This small volume of lubricating fluid is maintained via a delicate balance of hydrostatic and oncotic pressure and peripheral sulcal lymphatic drainage; disturbances in any of these mechanisms may lead to pathology and, possibly, manifest as a pleural effusion. [3]

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