Fluid Around Heart And Lungs: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Human heart and lungs are vital organs present in the rib cage. Both these organs are surrounded by thin membrane. The membrane is lined in two layers. One layer covers the organ and other layer is adherent to the inside of chest wall. Membrane surrounding the heart is called pericardium and membrane surrounding the lung is called pleura.

Some amount of fluid is present in between the two layers. It functions as a cushion for heart and lung during traumatic injury and from friction. However, abnormal accumulation of fluid around the heart and lungs can cause problem, the condition is called pericardial effusion and pleural effusion.

It can compress the vital organs and hamper their functioning.

Pain in chest and difficulty in breathing are two common symptoms with large accumulation of fluid. Pleural effusion and pericardial effusion is caused by infection or if the body is not able to handle the fluid properly. Treatment of the condition will depend on the underlying cause. Often excess of fluid reduces on its own or may need to be drained with the help of a needle.

What Causes Fluid Around The Heart And Lungs?

Build up of excess fluid in pericardium and pleura can result from number of causes.

It can be due to an inflammatory process, an infection or as a response to an injury.

Causes of fluid buildup around heart:

  • Viral or bacterial infection.
  • Accumulation of fluid after heart surgery or after heart attack.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis or other autoimmune disease.
  • Kidney and liver failure.
  • Trauma or puncture wound which infiltrates the pericardium.
  • Radiation therapy involving radiation of the lung tissue.
  • Hypothyroidism.
  • Metastatic infiltration in lung and breast cancer.
  • Certain chemotherapy drugs.
  • Prescription drugs such as hydralazine, isoniazide, phenytoin etc.

Causes of fluid buildup around lungs:

Abnormal fluid accumulation can occur between the layers of pleura due to several reasons.

  • Infection such as tuberculosis of lungs.
  • Pneumonia.
  • Viral infection such as dengue fever.
  • Organ failure which includes liver and kidney failure.
  • Cancer of lungs.
  • Metastasis occurring from breast cancer, ovarian cancer or prostate cancer.
  • Autoimmune diseases such as lupus, rheumatic arthritis.
  • After open heart surgery.
  • Congestive cardiac failure.

Symptoms Of Fluid Around Heart And Lungs

Small amount of accumulation of fluid may remain asymptomatic; however accumulation of large amount can produce range of symptoms:

Symptoms of fluid buildup around heart:

  • Difficulty in breathing.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Pain in chest, mainly in the middle of chest.
  • Fever.
  • Increased heart rate and pulse.
  • Breathing difficulty while lying down.
  • Dry cough.
  • Pain is better while sitting and aggravate when lying down.

Symptoms of fluid collection around the lungs:

  • Pain in chest, especially on the affected side of lungs. If fluid is collected in right side, patient experiences pain on his right side of chest. Similarly it can occur in the left side of chest.
  • Difficulty while breathing.
  • Pain in chest while inhaling.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Fever.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Dry cough.

Since pleural effusion or pericardial effusion is caused due to underlying disease or condition, many other symptoms of the condition are also present.

Treatment For Fluid Around The Heart And Lungs

Many cases of fluid buildup around the heart and lungs resolve without any specific treatment. In few other cases treating the underlying cause will improve the condition.

For example if the accumulation is caused due to tuberculosis, anti tuberculosis treatment with medications will gradually reduce excess collection of fluid.

If accumulation is in excess and the symptoms worsen, the fluid may need to be drained with a large bore needle. The procedure is performed by a trained doctor with the help of sonogram in sterile environment.