Impairment in pulmonary capacity due to pleural effusion compromises daily activity. Removal of fluid improves symptoms, but the impact, especially on exercise capacity, has not been determined.
Twenty-five patients with unilateral pleural effusion documented by chest radiograph were included. The 6-min walk test, Borg modified dyspnea score, FVC, and FEV1 were analyzed before and 48 h after the removal of large pleural effusions.
The mean fluid removed was 1,564 ± 695 mL. After the procedure, values of FVC, FEV1, and 6-min walk distance increased (P < .001), whereas dyspnea decreased (P < .001). Statistical correlations (P < .001) between 6-min walk distance and FVC (r = 0.725) and between 6-min walk distance and FEV1 (r = 0.661) were observed. Correlations also were observed between the deltas (prethoracentesis × postthoracentesis) of the 6-min walk test and the percentage of FVC (r = 0.450) and of FEV1 (r = 0.472) divided by the volume of fluid removed (P < .05).
In addition to the improvement in lung function after thoracentesis, the benefits of fluid removal are more evident in situations of exertion, allowing better readaptation of patients to routine activities.