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Pulmonary edema
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed

Pulmonary edema

Contributors: Michael W. Winter MD, Mary Anne Morgan MD, Paritosh Prasad MD
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed


Pulmonary edema refers to fluid accumulation in the interstitial space spreading to the alveoli. This fluid accumulation can compromise oxygenating and ventilation.

Patients with underlying medical conditions that impair clearance and mobilization of body fluids are at high risk for developing pulmonary edema. This is common in patients with congestive heart failure (systolic or diastolic), cirrhosis, end-stage renal disease, and acute respiratory distress syndrome. Pulmonary edema can also develop as a medication side effect or in the setting of acute injury due to viral infections, negative intrathoracic pressure (following thoracentesis), pulmonary embolism, smoke inhalation, opioid overdose, or high-altitude lung injury.

Pulmonary edema primarily causes dyspnea either at rest, on exertion, or exacerbated with lying flat. Patients may also complain of cough productive of frothy sputum, diaphoresis, or increased work of breathing. Hypoxemia is common.


J81.0 – Acute pulmonary edema
J81.1 – Chronic pulmonary edema

19242006 – Pulmonary edema

Look For

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Diagnostic Pearls

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Differential Diagnosis & Pitfalls

  • Asthma
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Vocal cord dysfunction / Vocal cord paralysis
  • Foreign body aspiration
  • Pneumonia (eg, Streptococcus pneumoniae pneumonia)
  • Pneumonitis
  • Bronchiectasis
  • Lung cancer
  • Atelectasis
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Pulmonary infarction
  • Cardiogenic shock
  • Acute coronary syndrome
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome
  • Vasculitis with pulmonary involvement
  • Diffuse alveolar hemorrhage

Best Tests

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Management Pearls

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Drug Reaction Data

Below is a list of drugs with literature evidence indicating an adverse association with this diagnosis. The list is continually updated through ongoing research and new medication approvals. Click on Citations to sort by number of citations or click on Medication to sort the medications alphabetically.

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Last Reviewed:03/15/2018
Last Updated:04/16/2018
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Pulmonary edema
A medical illustration showing key findings of Pulmonary edema : Cough, Hypoxemia, Pleural effusion, Dyspnea, Wheezing, HR increased, RR increased
Copyright © 2024 VisualDx®. All rights reserved.