Pleural Diseases

Pleural diseases are diseases in the two serous membranes overlying the lungs (visceral and parietal pleura), or between these (in the pleural cavity or pleural space). The pleural cavity is normally filled with a small amount of serous fluid (pleural fluid) and is, in healthy subjects, considered vacuumous. Change in pleural fluid is a common characteristic of pleural diseases.




Not enough is known on pleural diseases. We aim to produce knowledge on empyema, hemothorax, pleurisy, pleural effusion and pneumothorax.

Diagnostics and treatment

With our research, we hope to improve diagnostics and treatment of pleural diseases. We will focus on large scale epidemiological studies based on complete national registers.

Empyema is a condition caused by microorganisms (often bacteria) where pus collects in the pleural cavity, eventually affecting the lungs ability to expand. Empyema is commonly treated with antibiotics (intravenously) and pleural fluid drainage. Drainage can be complicated by clotting of the fluid due to pus.

Hemothorax is an accumulation of blood within the pleural cavity. Most common cause is injury, but also cancer, a collapsed lung and other conditions can cause hemothorax. Hemothorax is usually diagnosed by chest X-ray. The accumulation of blood in the pleural cavity leads to several complications; less blood is in circulation, it can prevent a lung from expanding (as the blood takes up space), and it might, if not removed, clot, hence might lead to scarring within the pleura.

Pleurisy is inflammation of the pleurae (membranes sorounding the lungs). Pleurisy is most commonly caused by viral infection. Other possible causes are many, but include bacterial infection, pneumonia, pulmonary embolism and lung cancer. Symptoms are mainly chest pain while breathing, as the inflammation prevents the pleurae from smoothly gliding.

Pleural effusion (or hydrothorax, when caused by serous fluid) is the accumulation of fluid in the pleural cavity. Normally, pleural fluid is continously secreted and absorbed. Excess fluid may impair inspiration by upsetting the functional vacuum in the pleural cavity. This then leads to an increased resistance against lung expansion – eventually a collapsed lung.

Often refered to as a collapsed lung, though this can be misleading. A pneomothorax is a collection of air in the pleural cavity. Common symptoms are one-sided chest pain and shortness of breath. Smoking increases the risk of primary (spontaneous) pneuomothorax, while main causes of secondary (non-spontaneous) are COPD, asthma and tuberculosis. Usually a chest X-ray, CT-scan or ultrasound is needed to confirm the presence of a pneumothorax. If severe, air can be removed by syringe, chest tube or surgery.