Pleural cavity

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Pleural cavity
Front view of thorax, showing the relations of the pleuræ and lungs to the chest wall. Pleura in blue; lungs in purple.
A transverse section of the thorax, showing the contents of the middle and the posterior mediastinum. The pleural and pericardial cavities are exaggerated since normally there is no space between parietal and visceral pleura and between pericardium and heart.
Latin cavitas pleuralis
Gray's subject #238 1088
Precursor intraembryonic coelom
MeSH Pleural+Cavity
Dorlands/Elsevier c_16/12220581

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In human anatomy, the pleural cavity is a body cavity containing the lungs; the lungs are surrounded by two serous membranes, the pleurae. The outer pleura (parietal pleura) covers and is attached to the chest wall. The inner pleura (visceral pleura) covers and is attached to the lung and other structures, i.e. blood vessels, bronchi and nerves. Between the two is a thin space known as the pleural space, which normally contains a small amount of pleural fluid.

The parietal pleura is highly sensitive to pain; the visceral pleura is not, because it receives no nerves of general sensation.[1]


Pleural fluid serves several functions. It lubricates the pleural surfaces and allows the pleural layers to slide against each other easily during ventilation. Pleural fluid also provides the surface tension that keeps the lung surface in close apposition with the chest wall. This allows optimal inflation of alveoli during respiration. It also directly transmits pressures from the chest wall to the visceral pleural surface (and hence, the lung). Therefore, movements of the chest wall during breathing are coupled closely to movements of the lungs.

Blood supply

The visceral pleura has a dual blood supply from the bronchial and pulmonary arteries.


It is filled with pleural fluid, a serous fluid produced by the pleura. A normal 70 kg human has approximately 12-15 mL of pleural fluid.

In normal pleurae, most fluid is produced by the parietal circulation (intercostal arteries) via bulk flow and reabsorbed by the lymphatic system. Thus, pleural fluid is continuously produced and reabsorbed. The rate of reabsorption may increase up to 40x before significant amounts of fluid accumulate within the pleural space.

In humans, there is no anatomical connection between the left and right pleural cavities, so in cases of pneumothorax (see below), the other hemithorax will still be able to function normally.


Diseases involving the pleura include:

  • Pneumothorax: a collection of air within the pleural cavity, arising either from the outside or from the lung. Pneumothoraces may be traumatic, iatrogenic, or spontaneous. A tension pneumothorax is a particular type of pneumothorax where the air may enter (though a defect of the chest wall, lung, or airways) on inspiration, but cannot exit on expiration. Each breath increases the amount of trapped air in the chest cavity, leading to further lung compression. This is a medical emergency.
  • Pleural effusion: a fluid accumulation within the pleural space. Abnormal collections of pleural fluid may be due to excessive fluid volume (i.e. excess intravenous fluids, renal failure), decreased fluid protein (e.g. cirrhosis, proteinuria), heart failure, bleeding (hemothorax), infections (parapneumonic effusions, empyema), inflammation, malignancies, or perforation of thoracic organs (i.e. chylothorax, esophageal rupture).
  • Pleural tumors: abnormal growths on the pleurae. These may be benign (i.e. pleural plaques) or malignant in nature. Mesothelioma is a type of malignant cancer associated with asbestos exposure.

See also

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| group5 = Clinical Trials Involving Pleural cavity | list5 = Ongoing Trials on Pleural cavity at Clinical Trials.govTrial results on Pleural cavityClinical Trials on Pleural cavity at Google

| group6 = Guidelines / Policies / Government Resources (FDA/CDC) Regarding Pleural cavity | list6 = US National Guidelines Clearinghouse on Pleural cavityNICE Guidance on Pleural cavityNHS PRODIGY GuidanceFDA on Pleural cavityCDC on Pleural cavity

| group7 = Textbook Information on Pleural cavity | list7 = Books and Textbook Information on Pleural cavity

| group8 = Pharmacology Resources on Pleural cavity | list8 = AND (Dose)}} Dosing of Pleural cavityAND (drug interactions)}} Drug interactions with Pleural cavityAND (side effects)}} Side effects of Pleural cavityAND (Allergy)}} Allergic reactions to Pleural cavityAND (overdose)}} Overdose information on Pleural cavityAND (carcinogenicity)}} Carcinogenicity information on Pleural cavityAND (pregnancy)}} Pleural cavity in pregnancyAND (pharmacokinetics)}} Pharmacokinetics of Pleural cavity

| group9 = Genetics, Pharmacogenomics, and Proteinomics of Pleural cavity | list9 = AND (pharmacogenomics)}} Genetics of Pleural cavityAND (pharmacogenomics)}} Pharmacogenomics of Pleural cavityAND (proteomics)}} Proteomics of Pleural cavity

| group10 = Newstories on Pleural cavity | list10 = Pleural cavity in the newsBe alerted to news on Pleural cavityNews trends on Pleural cavity

| group11 = Commentary on Pleural cavity | list11 = Blogs on Pleural cavity

| group12 = Patient Resources on Pleural cavity | list12 = Patient resources on Pleural cavityDiscussion groups on Pleural cavityPatient Handouts on Pleural cavityDirections to Hospitals Treating Pleural cavityRisk calculators and risk factors for Pleural cavity

| group13 = Healthcare Provider Resources on Pleural cavity | list13 = Symptoms of Pleural cavityCauses & Risk Factors for Pleural cavityDiagnostic studies for Pleural cavityTreatment of Pleural cavity

| group14 = Continuing Medical Education (CME) Programs on Pleural cavity | list14 = CME Programs on Pleural cavity

| group15 = International Resources on Pleural cavity | list15 = Pleural cavity en EspanolPleural cavity en Francais

| group16 = Business Resources on Pleural cavity | list16 = Pleural cavity in the MarketplacePatents on Pleural cavity

| group17 = Informatics Resources on Pleural cavity | list17 = List of terms related to Pleural cavity


ca:Pleura de:Pleurahöhle eo:Pleŭro eu:Pleura it:Pleura lt:Krūtinplėvė mk:Плевра nl:Pleurale ruimte fi:Keuhkopussi uk:Плевра

  1. p132 Clinically Oriented Anatomy, 5th edition. Moore and Dalley.