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Hepatic hydrothorax: Current concepts of pathophysiology and treatment options

Camron Kiafar, Nooman Gilani


Pleural effusions develop in 6-10% of patients with endstage liver disease. Although, commonly seen in conjunction with ascites, isolated hepatic hydrothorax can occur in a small number of patients with cirrhosis. Refractory hepatic hydrothorax particularly poses a challenging therapeutic dilemma as treatment options are limited at best in these patients. Current pathophysiologic understanding of this disorder, as a cause, points towards the presence of diaphragmatic defects responsible for the shift of fluid from the peritoneal to the pleural cavity. When sodium restriction and diuretic treatment fail, liver transplantation remains the most definitive therapy in these refractory cases. However, transjugular intrahepatic porto-systemic shunt (TIPS), or video-assisted thoracoscopic (VATS) repair of the diaphragmatic defects (with or without pleurodesis) are effective strategies in those who are not transplant candidates or those awaiting organ availability. Hepatic hydrothorax, especially when refractory to medical treatment, poses a challenging management dilemma. An early recognition and familiarity with available treatment modalities is crucial to effectively manage this exigent complication of cirrhosis.

Key words. Hepatic hydrothorax, complications of cirrhosis, pleural effusions in cirrhosis

Article Metrics

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

ALEH Hepatología CASL ACEF Médica Sur
Index Copernicus PubMed

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