Pleural diseases: your questions answered

Written by: Dr Deepak Rao
Edited by: Aoife Maguire

Pleural diseases encompass a range of conditions affecting the pleura, the delicate double-layered membrane enveloping the lungs and lining the chest cavity. These conditions can lead to discomfort, impaired lung function, and, in severe cases, life-threatening complications.


Distinguished consultant respiratory physician Dr Deepak Rao answers your commonly asked questions about the world of pleural diseases, shedding light on their types, symptoms, causes, diagnosis, prevention, and available treatment options.



What is pleural disease and what are its types?


Pleural diseases manifest in various forms, including pleurisy, pleural effusion, pneumothorax, pleural thickening, and mesothelioma. Each type presents distinctive challenges, ranging from inflammation of the pleura (pleurisy) to the accumulation of fluid between pleural layers (pleural effusion) and the collapse of lung due to air leakage (pneumothorax).


What are some typical symptoms of pleural diseases?


Symptoms of pleural diseases can vary widely. Common indicators include persistent chest pain, shortness of breath, coughing and in severe cases, difficulty breathing. These symptoms often mirror those of other respiratory disorders, underscoring the importance of accurate diagnosis.


What are the principal causes of pleural diseases?


Pleural diseases arise from diverse factors. Infections, such as pneumonia or tuberculosis, can trigger pleurisy and effusion. Pneumothorax can result from traumatic injuries or spontaneously due to underlying lung conditions, while mesothelioma, a rare but aggressive cancer affecting the pleura, is primarily linked to asbestos exposure.


How are pleural diseases diagnosed? What tests are involved?


Diagnosing pleural diseases involves a combination of medical history evaluation, physical examinations, imaging tests (chest X-rays, CT scans), and in some cases, invasive procedures like thoracentesis or pleural biopsy. These assessments aid in determining the precise type and severity of the condition.


Can pleural diseases be prevented, especially in occupational settings?


Prevention is paramount, particularly in occupational settings where exposure to asbestos and other harmful agents is common. Strict adherence to safety regulations, proper protective equipment, and regular health screenings can reduce the risk of pleural diseases, particularly mesothelioma.


What are the treatment options for pleural diseases, such as pleurisy?


Treatment approaches depend on the type and severity of the pleural disease. Pleurisy and pleural effusion may be managed with pain relief and drainage procedures, such as thoracentesis.


Pneumothorax often requires chest tube insertion to allow the lung to re-expand. In cases of pleural thickening and mesothelioma, treatment options may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and palliative care.





If you are suffering from a pleural disease and would like to book a consultation with Dr Rao, simply visit his Top Doctors profile today.

By Dr Deepak Rao
Pulmonology & respiratory medicine

Dr Deepak Rao is a renowned consultant respiratory physician based in London, specialising in a range of respiratory conditions including pleural disease, lung diseases, bronchoscopy, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and sleep apnoea. With a reputation built on expertise and dedication, Dr Rao is committed to providing comprehensive care to his patients.

Dr Rao commenced his medical studies at Bangalore University, India graduating with an MBBS in 1998, followed by the prestigious Diplomate of National Board (equivalent to an MD) in 2004. He became a member of the Royal College of Physicians (MRCP) in 2007 and he subsequently achieved a specialisation in respiratory medicine through the speciality certificate examination.

With a keen focus on enhancing patient outcomes, Dr Rao has been actively involved in delivering lung cancer and chronic respiratory failure services, including non-invasive ventilation. He demonstrates his commitment to quality improvement by participating in clinical audits, risk management, and service development within the hospital. He is devoted to delivering a world-class standard of care which is compassionate and patient-focused.  

Beyond his clinical expertise, Dr Rao is also heavily involved in research. He holds the position of research co-lead at Princess Royal University Hospital, driving advancements in pleural research. His dedication to both research and training is evident through his publications that reflect his contributions to the field. He is also committed to shaping the future of medicine through education, working as an honorary clinical senior lecturer at King’s College Hospital, London

Dr Rao's leadership roles extend to public organisations, where he heads the acute respiratory failure unit and serves as the lead for pleural diseases and intervention at Princess Royal University Hospital. He also takes on the responsibility of clinical lead for respiratory medicine at the same institution, under Kings Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

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