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Hepatic Hydrothorax

Yong Lv, Guohong Han, Daiming Fan


Hepatic hydrothorax (HH) is a pleural effusion that develops in a patient with cirrhosis and portal hypertension in the absence of cardiopulmonary disease. Although the development of HH remains incompletely understood, the most acceptable explanation is that the pleural effusion is a result of a direct passage of ascitic fluid into the pleural cavity through a defect in the diaphragm due to the raised abdominal pressure and the negative pressure within the pleural space. Patients with HH can be asymptomatic or present with pulmonary symptoms such as shortness of breath, cough, hypoxemia, or respiratory failure associated with large pleural effusions. The diagnosis is established clinically by finding a serous transudate after exclusion of cardiopulmonary disease and is confirmed by radionuclide imaging demonstrating communication between the peritoneal and pleural spaces when necessary. Spontaneous bacterial empyema is serious complication of HH, which manifest by increased pleural fluid neutrophils or a positive bacterial culture and will require antibiotic therapy. The mainstay of therapy of HH is sodium restriction and administration of diuretics. When medical therapy fails, the only definitive treatment is liver transplantation. Therapeutic thoracentesis, indwelling tunneled pleural catheters, transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt and thoracoscopic repair of diaphragmatic defects with pleural sclerosis can provide symptomatic relief, but the morbidity and mortality is high in these extremely ill patients.

Key words. Hepatic hydrothorax., Liver cirrhosis., Ascites., Spontaneous bacterial empyema.

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The Official Journal of the Mexican Association of Hepatology, the Latin-American Association for the Study of the Liver and the Canadian Association for the Study of the Liver

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