Pleural metastases

Pleural metastases are one of the vast majority of malignant lesions of the pleura.

The infiltration of the pleura usually manifests as pleural effusion, which is the first manifestation of pleural metastasis. In addition to the symptoms and systemic manifestations of neoplastic disease, as in general conditions, anorexia or weight loss, one of the most constant symptoms is dyspnoea, which occurs >50% of patients with malignant pleural effusion.

Pleural metastases usually affect the visceral and parietal pleura, pleural effusion almost always occurs due to impaired lymphatic drainage or capillary permeability increased by inflammation or rupture of the endothelium.

The adenocarcinoma histological type is the most likely to produce metastasis in the pleura. The most common primaries to result in pleural metastases include:

Although pleural effusion is often the major component of metastatic disease to the pleura, other findings include pleural nodules or extensive pleural thickening similar to that of mesothelioma. 

Features on chest x-ray include

  • pleurally-based masses
  • pleural thickening
  • pleural effusion
  • +/- rib destruction
  • +/- hilar/mediastinal lympadenopathy

CT is the method of choice for the study of pleural metastasis. CT may show nodules radiographically hidden by pleural effusion. The pleural metastases usually manifest as nodular or lenticular masses. The soft tissue component is enhanced frequently after administration of intravenous contrast. Other findings seen on CT are enlarged mediastinal lymph nodes, lung nodules, rib lesions, or subcutaneous mass

It can be difficult to differentiate pleural metastasis from primary pleural malignancy such as malignant mesothelioma since both can cause pleural effusions, pleural nodules, and isolated, diffuse or nodular thickening.

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Article information

rID: 23243
System: Chest, Oncology
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Metastases to pleura
  • Metastases to the pleura
  • Pleural metastasis
  • Pleural mets
  • Mets to the pleura

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