Thoracentesis (syn. Thoracocentesis/ Pleural tap / Needle thoracostomy / Needle decompression) is a minimally invasive procedure to remove fluid or air from pleural space for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes.

A cannula or needle is carefully introduced into the thorax after administration of local anesthesia. Thoracentesis performed under ultrasound guidance has shown to reduce complications.

The doctor explains the procedure to the patient and you may be asked to sign a consent form that gives permission to do the procedure. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant, sensitive or allergic to any medicine, have had a bleeding disorder or take anticoagulant, aspirin, or other medicines that affect blood clotting. Imaging tests to be performed before the procedure - Chest X-ray, Chest fluoroscopy, Ultrasound and CT scan. These are done to find the location of the fluid to be removed.

You may have your procedure as an outpatient. This means you go home the same day. Or it may be done as part of a longer stay in the hospital. You may be asked to remove your clothes. If so, you will be given a hospital gown to wear. You may be asked to remove jewelry or other objects. You may be given oxygen through a nasal tube or face mask. Your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing will be watched during the procedure. You will be in a sitting position in a hospital bed. Your arms will be resting on an over-bed table. This position helps to spread out the spaces between the ribs, where the needle is inserted.

If you are not able to sit, you may lie on your side on the edge of the bed. The skin where the needle will be put in will be cleaned with an antiseptic solution. A numbing medicine (local anesthetic) will be injected in the area. When the area is numb, the doctor will put a needle between the ribs in your back. You may feel some pressure where the needle goes in. Fluid will slowly be withdrawn into the needle. You will be asked to hold still, breathe out deeply, or hold your breath at certain times during the procedure. If there is a large amount of fluid, tubing may be attached to the needle. This will let the fluid drain more. The fluid will drain into a bottle or bag. In some cases, a flexible tube (catheter) will be put in place of the needle and the tubing will be attached for a day or two. You will stay in the hospital until the catheter is removed. When enough fluid has been removed, the needle will be taken out. A bandage or dressing will be put on the area. Fluid samples may be sent to a lab. You may have a chest X-ray taken right after the procedure. This is to make sure your lungs are OK.

After the procedure, your blood pressure, pulse, and breathing will be watched. The dressing over the puncture site will be checked for bleeding or other fluid. If you had an outpatient procedure, you will go home when your doctor says it’s OK. Someone will need to drive you home. At home, you can go back to your normal diet and activities if instructed by your doctor. You may need to not do strenuous physical activity for a few days. Call your doctor if you have fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as advised by doctor, redness or swelling of the needle site, blood or other fluid leaking from the needle site, feeling short of breath, trouble breathing, chest pain.

Thoracentesis can help to diagnose

  • Congestive Heart Failure
  • Infections
  • Cancer
  • Autoimmune Diseases
  • Pulmonary Embolism
  • Tuberculosis
  • Pneumonia
  • Liver Failure
  • Kidney Failure

What are the benefits & risks of Thoracentesis?

The outcomes of Thoracentesis depend on several factors and conditions suffered by the patient in the past.

The procedure is indicated:

  • When unexplained fluid accumulates in pleural space outside the lung.
  • Laboratory analysis of pleural fluid yields clinically useful information.
  • If large amount of fluid is present then therapeutic aspiration is done to improve patient comfort and lung function.

The risks may include:

  • Air in the space between the lung covering (pleural space) that causes the lung to collapse (pneumothorax)
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Liver or spleen injury (rare)
  • Thoracentesis should not be done in people with certain bleeding conditions.

Consult with our experienced Doctors

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