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‘It's just a fluid level’
  1. ZheYi Liew1,2,
  2. Victoria Thomas1,
  3. Katherine Eastham1
  1. 1Department of Paediatrics, Sunderland Royal Hospital, Sunderland, UK
  2. 2Department of Paediatric Respiratory Medicine, Great North Children's Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr ZheYi Liew, c/o Paediatric Respiratory Secretaries, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 4LP, UK; zheyi.liew{at}

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A previously well 16-year-old girl presented to the adult emergency department with a 7-day history of sudden onset right-sided pleuritic chest pain. She had no associated cough, fever, breathing difficulty, palpitations or risk factors for pulmonary embolism. Examination was unremarkable apart from possible fourth left rib costochondral tenderness. White cell count (WCC) and C reactive protein (CRP) (3 mg/dL) were normal. Non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs were prescribed. She re-presented 7 days later with ongoing chest pain. Clinical examination revealed no chest wall deformity, no increased work of breathing or tachypnoea and oxygen saturations of 98% in air. Air entry was reduced at the right base. Repeat blood tests demonstrated a minimal rise in CRP (21 mg/dL) and a normal WCC. Her chest X-ray was reviewed (figure 1). Verbal radiology report suggested that the appearance was consistent with a complication of pneumonia: ‘it's just a fluid level’.

Figure 1

Chest X-ray showing right lower zone shadowing.


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  • Contributors ZYL and KE wrote the draft. VT was involved in the care of the patient and contributed to subsequent drafts of the manuscript.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Institutional Review Board.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.