A simple laboratory measurement for discrimination of transudative and exudative pleural effusion: pleural viscosity

Ozkan Yetkin, Ibrahim Tek, Akin Kaya, Aydin Ciledag, Numan Numanoglu
Respiratory Medicine 2006, 100 (7): 1286-90

BACKGROUND: The initial step in establishing the cause of an effusion is to determine whether the fluid is a transudate or exudate. Plasma viscosity is influenced by the concentration of plasma proteins and lipoproteins with the major contribution resulting from fibrinogen. In this study we aimed to evaluate the role of pleural fluid viscosity in discrimination of transudate and exudates.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: We studied prospectively 63 consecutive patients with pleural effusion in whom diagnostic or therapeutic thoracentesis had been performed. The criteria of Light were applied to differentiate transudates from exudates: 33 patients (23 male, 13 female, mean age=68+/-4 years) had exudates and 30 patients (17 male, 13 female, mean age=68+/-5) had transudates (due to congestive heart failure). Measurements of pleural fluid and plasma viscosity were performed using a viscometer.

RESULTS: There was no statistically significant difference between patients with transudate and exudates in respect to plasma viscosity. However, pleural viscosities of the patients with exudates were significantly higher than those of patients with transudate (1.37+/-0.16 mPa vs 0.93+/-0.03 mPa s p<0.001, respectively). Pleural viscosity has a high sensitivity, specificity (94%, 93%, respectively), positive and negative predictive value (97%, 97%, respectively) for the discrimination of transudative or exudatetive pleural fluid.

CONCLUSION: We have demonstrated for the first time that pleural viscosity of the exudative effusion is higher than that of transudative effusion with high sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive value. Regarding the simplicity of this measurement, it may play a valuable role in the accurate and fast discrimination of pleural fluid.

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