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Thoracentesis: Before Your Child's Procedure

What is thoracentesis?

Thoracentesis (say "thor-uh-sen-TEE-sis") is a procedure to remove fluid from the space between the lungs and the chest wall. This is called the pleural space. The procedure may also be called a "chest tap."

It's normal to have a small amount of fluid in the pleural space. But too much fluid can build up because of problems such as infection or heart failure. The procedure may be done to help with shortness of breath and pain caused by the fluid buildup. Or your child may have it done so the doctor can test the fluid to find the cause of the buildup.

The doctor will put a long, thin needle or a thin plastic tube called a catheter between two of your child's ribs. The doctor will use the needle or catheter to take fluid out.

Your child may get medicine before the procedure. This helps with pain and helps your child relax. The procedure will take about 15 minutes.

If the doctor sends the fluid to a lab for testing, it usually takes a few hours to get the results. Some of the test results may take a few days. The doctor or nurse will discuss the results with you.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How do you prepare for the procedure?

Procedures can be stressful for both your child and you. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your child's procedure.

Preparing for the procedure

  • Understand exactly what procedure is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell the doctor ALL the medicines and natural health products your child takes. Some may increase the risk of problems during the procedure. Your doctor will tell you if your child should stop taking any of them before the procedure and how soon to do it.
  • Talk to your child about the procedure. Tell your child that it will help get the fluid out of his or her chest so that he or she can feel better. Hospitals know how to take care of children. The staff will do all they can to make it easier for your child.
  • Plan for your child's recovery time. He or she may need more of your time right after the procedure, both for care and for comfort.

The day before the procedure

  • Talk to a nurse to confirm the time and date of your child's procedure. The nurse can also answer any questions you have.
  • Remember to follow your doctor's instructions about your child taking or stopping medicines before the procedure. This includes over-the-counter medicines.

What happens on the day of the procedure?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when your child should stop eating and drinking. If you don't, the procedure may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to have your child take his or her medicines on the day of the procedure, have your child take them with only a sip of water.
  • Follow the doctor's instructions about when your child should bathe or shower before the procedure. Do not apply lotion or deodorant.
  • Your child may brush his or her teeth. But tell your child not to swallow any toothpaste or water.
  • Your child should not wear contact lenses. Have his or her glasses or contact lens case with you for after the procedure.
  • Be sure your child has something that reminds him or her of home. A special stuffed animal, toy, or blanket may be comforting. For an older child, it might be a book or music.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • A parent or legal guardian must accompany your child.
  • The doctor may take a chest X-ray or use ultrasound or CT scan pictures to help find the exact spot where fluid has built up.
  • Your child will be kept comfortable and safe by the anesthesia provider. The anesthesia may make your child sleep. Or it may just numb the area being worked on.
  • The procedure will take about 15 minutes.
  • You will probably be able to take your child home or to his or her hospital room after the procedure.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare your child for the procedure.
  • Your child becomes ill before the procedure (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about your child having the procedure.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.