Hepatic hydrothorax – pathophysiology, diagnosis and treatment – review of the literature


O. Shibolet, MD, Liver Unit, Division of Medicine, Hadassah University Hospital, P.O. Box 12000, Jerusalem 91120, Israel.
Tel: 972-2-6777337
Fax: 972-2-6420338
e-mail: Shibolet@hadassah.org.il


Abstract: Hepatic hydrothorax is defined as the accumulation of significant pleural effusion in a cirrhotic patient without primary pulmonary or cardiac disease. Hydrothorax is uncommon occurring in up to 4–6% of all patients with cirrhosis and up to 10% in patients with decompensated cirrhosis. Although ascites is usually present, hydrothorax can occur in the absence of ascites. Patients with hepatic hydrothorax usually have advanced liver disease with portal hypertension and most of them will require liver transplantation. Over the last few years, new insights into the pathogenesis of this entity have lead to improved treatment modalities such as portosystemic shunts (TIPS) and video-assisted thoracoscopy for closure of diaphragmatic defects. These modalities may be of help as a bridge to transplantation. The aim of this review is to describe recent developments in the pathogenesis, diagnosis and treatment of hepatic hydrothorax.