Hepatic hydrothorax is a pleural effusion (typically ≥500 mL) that develops in patients with cirrhosis and/or portal hypertension in the absence of other causes. In most cases, hepatic hydrothorax is seen in patients with ascites. However, ascites is not always found at diagnosis and is not clinically detected in 20% of patients with hepatic hydrothorax. Some patients have no symptoms and incidental findings on radiologic examination lead to the diagnosis of the condition. In the majority of cases, the patients present with symptoms such as dyspnea at rest, cough, nausea, and pleuritic chest pain. The diagnosis of hepatic hydrothorax is based on clinical manifestations, radiological features, and thoracocentesis to exclude other etiologies such as infection (parapneumonic effusion, tuberculosis), malignancy (lymphoma, adenocarcinoma) and chylothorax. The management strategy involves a stepwise approach of one or more of the following: Reducing ascitic fluid production, preventing fluid transfer to the pleural space, fluid drainage from the pleural cavity, pleurodesis (obliteration of the pleural cavity), and liver transplantation. The complications of hepatic hydrothorax are associated with significant morbidity and mortality. The complication that causes the highest morbidity and mortality is spontaneous bacterial empyema (also called spontaneous bacterial pleuritis).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-53
Number of pages9
JournalThe Korean journal of gastroenterology = Taehan Sohwagi Hakhoe chi
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2024


  • Complication
  • Diagnoses
  • Hepatic hydrothorax
  • Manifestation
  • Treatment


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