What is thoracentesis?

Thoracentesis is a procedure in which a needle is used to remove excess fluid from the area between the lungs and chest wall (pleural space).

What can you expect during your thoracentesis exam?

A thoracentesis procedure requires that you be in a seated position slightly leaned forward. First, the area of the skin in which the needle will be inserted is cleaned and sterilized. The radiologist or radiologist assistant uses a local anesthetic to numb the area.

Next, a long, thin needle is carefully inserted into the space between the lungs and chest wall to remove the fluid. You may feel mild pressure, but it shouldn’t be painful. Ultrasound or x-ray images are used to guide the procedure.

A sample of the fluid may be sent to the laboratory to determine the cause of the excess fluid.

The procedure takes 10 to 15 minutes.

How can you prepare for your thoracentesis exam?

  • Tell your physician about any medications you are taking (especially blood thinners, such as aspirin or ibuprofen), allergies to anesthetics or bleeding problems.
  • Inform your physician if you might be pregnant.
  • Tell your physician if you have a chronic lung disease, such as emphysema, or have had lung surgery. Scarring from surgery can complicate a thoracentesis procedure.
  • Get a chest x-ray before the procedure and any blood tests ordered by your doctor to check for bleeding problems.

What to expect after your thoracentesis exam?

  • The catheter insertion site may be a little tender for a day or two.
  • Avoid any strenuous activity for several days.
  • You may resume light activity. (Walking and sitting)
  • If you experience symptoms of dizziness, bleeding , redness or swelling at the incision site, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, coughing up blood, pain when taking a deep breath, nausea, vomiting, fever or chills, contact your physician or go to the nearest Emergency Room.