Rheumatoid pleural effusion

Alexandra Balbir-Gurman, Mordechai Yigla, Abraham Menahem Nahir, Yolanda Braun-Moscovici
Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism 2006, 35 (6): 368-78

OBJECTIVES: To describe the clinical and laboratory features of rheumatoid pleural effusion (RPE) and the diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to this condition.

METHODS: The review is based on a MEDLINE (PubMed) search of the English literature from 1964 to 2005, using the keywords "rheumatoid arthritis" (RA), "pulmonary complication", "pleural effusion", and "empyema".

RESULTS: Pleural effusion is common in middle-aged men with RA and positive rheumatoid factor (RF). It has features of an exudate and a high RF titer. Underlying lung pathology is common. Generally RPE is small and resolves spontaneously but symptomatic RPE may require thoracocentesis. Rarely, RPE has features of a sterile empyematous exudate with high lipids and lactate dehydrogenase, and very low glucose and pH levels. This type of effusion eventually leads to fibrothorax and lung restriction. Superimposed infective empyema often complicates RPE. Oral, parenteral, and intrapleural corticosteroids, pleurodesis and decortication, have been used for the treatment of sterile RPE. Infected empyema is treated with drainage and antibiotics.

CONCLUSIONS: RPE may evolve into a sterile empyematous exudate with the development of fibrothorax. Symptomatic effusions or suspicion of other causes of exudate (infection, malignancy) require thoracocentesis. The "rheumatoid" nature of the pleural exudate in patients without arthritis mandates a pleural biopsy to exclude tuberculosis or malignancy. The optimal therapy of RPE has yet to be established. The role of cytokines in the course of RPE and the possible usefulness of cytokine blockade in the treatment of this RA complication require further evaluation.

Full Text Links

Find Full Text Links for this Article


You are not logged in. Sign Up or Log In to join the discussion.

Related Papers

Remove bar
Read by QxMD icon Read

Save your favorite articles in one place with a free QxMD account.


Search Tips

Use Boolean operators: AND/OR

diabetic AND foot
diabetes OR diabetic

Exclude a word using the 'minus' sign

Virchow -triad

Use Parentheses

water AND (cup OR glass)

Add an asterisk (*) at end of a word to include word stems

Neuro* will search for Neurology, Neuroscientist, Neurological, and so on

Use quotes to search for an exact phrase

"primary prevention of cancer"
(heart or cardiac or cardio*) AND arrest -"American Heart Association"

We want to hear from doctors like you!

Take a second to answer a survey question.