Pulmonary Edemas

What is Pulmonary Edema?

Pulmonary edema is a health condition which refers to the buildup of fluid in the lungs. It occurs because of an accumulation of fluid in the alveolar capillaries of the lungs, which can then leak into the lung interstitium and alveolar air spaces. It is most commonly caused by congestive heart failure, but can be caused by other conditions as well.

Symptoms of Pulmonary Edema

Symptoms of pulmonary edema may include:

  • Coughing up frothy, pink fluid (pulmonary edema)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Rapid breathing
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Fainting or loss of consciousness
  • Chest discomfort
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue

Causes of Pulmonary Edema

Pulmonary edema can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • Heart conditions (congestive heart failure, arrhythmias, valvular heart disease, myocarditis)
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Lung diseases (pneumonia, COPD, asthma, pulmonary fibrosis)
  • High altitude exposure
  • Drug overdose

Diagnosis of Pulmonary Edema

If a doctor suspects a patient may have pulmonary edema, he or she may order the following tests to confirm the diagnosis:

  • Chest X-ray
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Echocardiogram (echo)
  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Arterial blood gases (ABGs)
  • Pulse oximetry
  • Complete blood count (CBC)

Treatment of Pulmonary Edema

Treatment for pulmonary edema will depend on the underlying cause. In general, however, treatment may include:

  • Oxygen therapy
  • Diuretics (such as furosemide) to reduce the amount of fluid in the lungs
  • Intravenous (IV) medications to reduce the workload on the heart, such as nitrates, beta-blockers, and ACE inhibitors
  • Surgery (in certain cases)