25 April 2001
We present 4 patients undergoing hemodialysis in whom thoracic computed tomography (CT) suggested a diagnosis of rounded atelectasis (RA) with pleural effusion. The clinical setting and follow-up CT of all 4 patients confirmed this diagnosis. The pleural fluid of each appeared serosanguineous or hemorrhagic and predominantly consisted of lymphocytes. Biochemical analysis of this fluid revealed high levels of total protein, lactate dehydrogenase and glucose. Bacterial culture and polymerase chain reaction for Mycobacterium tuberculosis DNA was negative. Pleural biopsy specimens from 2 of the 4 patients showed evidence of fibrinous change and mesothelial cell hyperplasia. Pleural effusion from all 4 patients did not respond to either fluid restriction or aggressive hemodialysis-induced dehydration. The subsequent clinical course and thoracentesis were repeated, and in 1 patient, this was followed by tetracycline pleurodesis. However, 2 patients died during pre-pleurodesis and 1 died during post-pleurodesis, all due to respiratory failure. We propose that the clinical setting and follow-up thoracic CT and thoracentesis of patients receiving long-term hemodialysis confirmed a diagnosis of rounded atelectasis with uremic pleural effusion. We also propose that the prognosis of patients with refractory pleural effusion receiving long-term hemodialysis would be improved by early pleurodesis.