, the pleural cavity
is the potential space between the lungs
and the chest wall. It has virtually nothing in it in the normal non-diseased state, except a small amount of pleural fluid
. The cavity is lined by specialized epithelium
. The pleura that is connected to the chest wall is called the parietal pleura
and is highly sensitive to pain. The pleura that is connected to the lung and other visceral tissues is called the visceral pleura
, is not sensitive to pain
and has a dual blood supply
, from the bronchial and pulmonary arteries. There is no anatomical connection between the left and right pleural cavities, as they are separated by the mediastinum.
The pleura and pleural fluid function to preserve a vacuum state that enables breathing. This function of the pleural cavity can be disrupted in several ways:
- Pneumothorax (collapsed lung): air enters the pleural cavity, either from the outside or from the lungs. This can be the result of a penetrating chest would, or of a internal injury (tension pneumothorax).
- Pleural effusion: fluid accumulates in the pleural space, compressing the lungs. This can result for example from lung cancer, infection or heart failure.
An older term, pleurisy
, is sometimes encountered: it indicated an inflammation of the pleura, especially one causing painful respiration, and could be provoked by a variety of infectious and non-infectious causes.