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There are a variety of tests and techniques your doctor might use to diagnose the different pleural and mediastinal disorders. Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and medical history and will likely listen to your lungs. The specific tests your doctor will use will depend on which disorder is suspected, but diagnosis of these disorders tends to involve similar tests.

To diagnose the various disorders of the pleura and mediastinum, your doctor may use one or more of the following tests:

  • X-ray: chest X-rays may show the fluid or air in the pleural space or mediastinum. However, X-ray images may not show enough detail to definitively diagnose some disorders.
  • Computed tomography (CT): provides a clear and detailed picture of the structures inside the chest.
  • Ultrasound: uses ultrasound waves to produce images of structures inside the body. Ultrasound images also show accumulations of fluid or air and is often used to guide procedures such as draining fluid and performing biopsies.
  • Thoracentesis: uses a needle to take a sample of the fluid between the layers of the pleura. The sample can be tested in the laboratory to determine the cause of the effusion.