Pleural effusion is an abnormal accumulation of fluids in the pleural space between the parietal and visceral pleura of the lungs. Breathlessness, chest pain and non-productive cough are the most common symptoms associated with pleural effusion. This condition is most commonly caused by congestive heart failure, pneumonia, malignancy or pulmonary embolism. Removal of the fluid in the pleural effusion by thoracentesis acts as a diagnostic procedure and also serves as a therapeutic modality.
The Ayurvedic treatment of pleural effusion is aimed at reducing the accumulation of fluid within the pleura and treating the known cause. Congestive heart failure is treated using medicines like Laxmi-Vilas-Ras, Shrung-Bhasma, Maha-Laxmi-Vilas-Ras, Arjunarishta, Punarnavadi-Qadha, Bruhat-Vat-Chintamani, Arjun (Terminalia arjuna), Punarnava (Boerhaavia diffusa), Haritaki (Terminalia chebula), Amalaki (Emblica officinalis) and Abhrak-Bhasma. Pneumonia can be treated using medicines like Shrung-Bhasma, Ras-Sindur, Malla-Sindur, Sameer-Pannag-Ras, Kantakari (Solanum xanthocarpum), Bruhat-Kantakari, Karkatashrungi (Pistichia integerima), Kushtha (Saussarea lappa), Kulingan (Alpimia galangal) and Pushkarmool (Inula racemosa).
Pleural effusions due to malignancy can be treated using medicines like Kachnaar-Guggulu, Punarnavadi-Guggulu, Panch-Tikta-Ghrut-Guggulu, Maha-Manjishthadi-Qadha, Saarivadi-Churna, Heerak-Bhasma, Laghu-Malini-Vasant, Madhu-Malini-Vasant, Suvarna-Malini-Vasant, Suvarna-Sameer-Pannag-Ras, Yashtimadhuk (Glycerrhiza glabra), Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus), Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), Bala (Sida cordifolia) and Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum).
A massive pulmonary embolism is usually an acute medical emergency and needs to be treated in the intensive care of a hospital. However, repeated, minor pulmonary emboli can be treated using medicines like Triphala (Three fruits), Trikatu (Three pungent herbs), Chitrak (Plumbago zeylanica), Kutki (Picrorrhiza kurroa), Vishwa (Zinziber officinalis), Kutaj-Parpati and Panchamrut-Parpati.
The prognosis of pleural effusion varies and depends on the cause and characteristics of the effusion. Patients who seek medical care earlier in the course of the disease and those with prompt diagnosis and treatment have a substantially lower rate of complications than those who do not. All such patients should be under the regular care and supervision of a chest physician.