Written By: Devin Golden

Mesothelioma Pleural Fluid Analysis

Mesothelioma pleural fluid analysis is another term for a pleural mesothelioma fluid biopsy test, also called cytology. A pleural fluid analysis can be used in the process of obtaining a pleural mesothelioma diagnosis. However, using a fluid analysis is less conclusive than using a tissue biopsy.

Karen Ritter, RN BSN

Medically Reviewed By

Karen Ritter, RN BSN

Registered Nurse

Karen Ritter, RN BSN

Medically Reviewed By

Karen Ritter, RN BSN

Registered Nurse


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What Is Pleural Fluid?

Pleural fluid is the fluid in between the layers of the pleura, also called the pleural cavity. The pleural space between the lungs and chest serves as a buffer for the lungs to expand and contract as needed.

The pleura is where pleural mesothelioma forms. Pleural mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of the lungs. The pleura contains mesothelial cells, which can turn cancerous due to genetic mutations caused by asbestos fibers. These fibers can get stuck in the pleural tissue linings.

Pleural Effusion Infograph

What Is Pleural Fluid?

How a Pleural Fluid Analysis is Performed

Pleural fluid can contain mesothelial cells, which if cancerous can help doctors find evidence of pleural mesothelioma. There are not as many mesothelial cells in pleural fluid as there are in pleural tissue. Doctors can still collect a sample of the pleural fluid for analysis. Collecting pleural fluid with mesothelial cells is how to do a pleural fluid analysis.

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Some people ask whether mesothelial cells are normal in pleural fluid. This is normal, mesothelial cells cover the surface of the lungs, the inside of the chest wall and around the heart. Between the pleura and chest wall is fluid (pleural fluid), so it’s common for mesothelial cells to be in this fluid.

What Are Pleural Effusions?

Pleural effusions are one of the symptoms of pleural mesothelioma. A pleural effusion is a buildup of fluid between the two pleural linings. Pleural effusion occurs due to sharp asbestos fibers in the pleural cavity.

Irritation and scar tissue developing from asbestos fibers is the cause of pleural effusion. This irritation and scar tissue causes a disruption in the normal transfer of fluid across the mesothelial cells of the pleura, which forms pockets of fluid called pleural effusions.

The signs of a pleural effusion are a cough, chest pain and shortness of breath, some of which is due to the lungs having less of a buffer space to expand against the chest. There are ways to treat pleural effusions and it’s an option for patients with pleural mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma Pleural Fluid Analysis for Diagnosing Pleural Mesothelioma

A mesothelioma pleural fluid analysis can be used in the diagnostic process for malignant mesothelioma. However, using a fluid analysis is less definitive and effective than a tissue biopsy in diagnosing mesothelioma.

According to one study, a fluid biopsy accurately diagnosed 26% of mesothelioma cases. By comparison, tissue biopsies were accurate 98% of the time.

Fluid Biopsy Accuracy Pie Chart

Fluid Biopsy Accuracy

Tissue Biopsy Accuracy Pie Chart

Tissue Biopsy Accuracy

Thoracentesis for Pleural Mesothelioma Icon

Thoracentesis for Pleural Mesothelioma

The main type of fluid biopsy for malignant pleural mesothelioma is a thoracentesis. In this surgical procedure, doctors will pass a needle between the ribs into the pleural space followed by a thin catheter tube to collect pleural fluid.

Thoracentesis is also a pain-relief treatment option for mesothelioma patients with severe pleural effusions who need to drain fluid for comfort and easier breathing.

Sources & Author

  1. About Pleural Effusion. Penn Medicine. Retrieved from: https://www.pennmedicine.org/for-patients-and-visitors/patient-information/conditions-treated-a-to-z/pleural-effusion. Accessed: 02/09/2023.
  2. Tests for Malignant Mesothelioma. American Cancer Society. Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/malignant-mesothelioma/detection-diagnosis-staging/how-diagnosed.html. Accessed: 05/05/2020.
  3. Types of biopsies used to look for cancer. American Cancer Society. Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.org/treatment/understanding-your-diagnosis/tests/testing-biopsy-and-cytology-specimens-for-cancer/biopsy-types.html. Accessed: 05/05/2020.
Devin Golden

About the Writer, Devin Golden

Devin Golden is a content writer for Mesothelioma Guide. He produces mesothelioma-related content on various mediums, including the Mesothelioma Guide website and social media channels. Devin's objective is to translate complex information regarding mesothelioma into informative, easily absorbable content to help patients and their loved ones.