Introduction: Acute hydrothorax is an uncommon but a well-recognized complication of peritoneal dialysis. No single test is definitive for diagnosis. Although it is not a life-threatening condition, hydrothorax often requires abandonment of peritoneal dialysis. Delay in diagnosis can lead to worsening of the clinical status.
Case presentation: A 33-year-old Caucasian woman with lupus, who was successfully treated with temporary peritoneal dialysis 17 years previously, presented with acute dyspnea and a right pleural effusion after recommencing peritoneal dialysis. Investigations eliminated infective, cardiac, and primary respiratory causes. Peritoneal dialysis-related hydrothorax was suggested by biochemistry, and a pleuroperitoneal leak was definitively confirmed by using a Tc-99 m DTPA (diethylene triamine penta-acetic acid) scintigraphy scan. Subsequently, she underwent video-assisted thoracoscopy-guided talc pleurodesis and was able to return successfully to peritoneal dialysis.
Conclusion: Although our case is not the first report that describes the occurrence of acute hydrothorax in peritoneal dialysis, it is an important condition to recognize for the wider general medical community. Furthermore, this case demonstrates that peritoneal dialysis can be continued with a hydrothorax, provided the underlying cause can be corrected. We review the literature pertaining to the utility and reliability of different diagnostic approaches to hydrothorax.