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Restoring Independence to Patients With Pleural Effusion

The first thing Mrs. G said when she came for the evaluation of her pleural effusion was “I have been active all my life”. However, the simple task of bending over to tie her shoes had become impossible because she could not breath. She described the build up of fluid as terrifying and robbing her of her independence.

The accumulation of pleural fluid or fluid around the lung is a common problem which can occur in a number of disease states. The most common symptom associated with pleural fluid is shortness of breath. It is our goal to rapidly manage and effectively control this problem and restore independence to every patient.

As the fluid built up around Mrs. G’s lung, she described a sensation of shortness of breath and a complete inability to take a deep breath. She said she could no longer exercise; walking was taxing and the shortness of breath made it impossible for her to lay flat at night; she was now sleeping upright in a recliner. In the office, under ultrasound guidance, she had her fluid drained – improving her breathing “almost immediately”. We then formulated a plan to restore her independence and give her control over the accumulation of the fluid.

What is a pleural effusion?

Helping patients with mesothelioma

One of my passions is helping patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM). This is an aggressive cancer that is asbestos related, and affects the abdomen and/or chest. I specialize in chest mesothelioma. One of the reasons I trained in thoracic surgery, and mesothelioma surgery in specific, is that I believe passionately that there are treatment options for every single patient that can improve their quality of life, if not to give them a chance of cure and long term survival.

This optimism unfortunately is not a common belief among physicians. My experience in training in mesothelioma surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, arguably the biggest international center treating mesothelioma, has shown me that people can survive for years after aggressive treatment including surgery. I know we can help patients with mesothelioma feel and breathe better, and enjoy their remaining years.

I’d like to present two of my patients to highlight this optimism.

Are you ready for surgery?

I am a nurse practitioner and one of my jobs is to help patients through their surgical experience with us. Here are some of the things you should know before surgery:

Communication

Surgery can be a very stressful event, and thinking about it may cause some anxiety. The best way to prepare for surgery is through education. Make sure that you have talked to all of your doctors so that you are making an informed decision about surgery. We will collaborate with your primary care physician and your cardiologist, but we encourage you to communicate with your entire medical team as well.

Education

Learn about your surgery, what your hospital stay will be like, and what you can expect during recovery. The more relaxed and confident you are going into surgery, the better your chances of a successful and comfortable experience.

Diet

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