Why is a detailed medical history required from patients presenting with pleural effusion (fluid on the lungs)?

Updated: Dec 28, 2018
  • Author: Kamran Boka, MD, MS; Chief Editor: Guy W Soo Hoo, MD, MPH  more...
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A detailed medical history should be obtained from all patients presenting with a pleural effusion, as this may help to establish the etiology. For example, a history of chronic hepatitis or alcoholism with cirrhosis suggests hepatic hydrothorax or alcohol-induced pancreatitis with effusion. Recent trauma or surgery to the thoracic spine raises the possibility of a CSF leak. The patient should be asked about a history of cancer, even remote, as malignant pleural effusions can develop many years after initial diagnosis.

An occupational history should also be obtained, including potential asbestos exposure, which could predispose the patient to mesothelioma or benign asbestos-related pleural effusion. The patient should also be asked about medications they are taking. [4]

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