Thoracentesis (say "thor-uh-sen-TEE-sis") is a procedure to remove fluid from the space between the lungs and the chest wall (pleural space). This procedure may also be called a "chest tap." It is 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, heart failure, or lung cancer. The procedure may be done to help with shortness of breath and pain caused by the fluid buildup. Or you may have this procedure so the doctor can test the fluid to find the cause of the buildup.
Your doctor will put a long, thin needle or a hollow plastic tube, called a catheter, between two of your ribs. The doctor will use the needle or catheter to take fluid out.
You may get medicine before the procedure to help with pain and to help you relax. The procedure will take about 15 minutes. Most people go home shortly after the procedure. You can go back to work or your normal activities as soon as you feel up to it.
If the doctor sends the fluid to a lab for testing, it can take several days to get the results. The doctor or nurse will discuss the results with you.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Procedures can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your procedure.
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Current as of: May 12, 2017
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
& David C. Stuesse, MD - Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery
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