The cause of pleural effusion was studied in 300 consecutive patients by clinical examination and laboratory tests. The three most common causes were found to be cancer 117 cases (metastatic 65, bronchogenic 34, mesothelioma 10, lymphoma 7, other 1); tuberculous infection 53; and bacterial infection 38. The cause was not found in 62 patients. Cancer diagnosis was established by cytological examination of pleural fluid (63), closed pleural biopsy (37), and open pleural biopsy (11). Tuberculosis was diagnosed by culture of pleural fluid (12), closed pleural biopsy (38), and open pleural biopsy (3). In cases of empyema 12 Gram-positive and two Gram-negative cocci and two anaerobes were identified. The various causes and the usefulness of the different investigative procedures are discussed, and the data evaluated in the light of current knowledge about mechanisms of transfer through the pleural space.
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