Top of the page
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. Too much fluid can build up because of problems such as infection, heart failure, or lung cancer. The procedure may have been done to help with shortness of breath and pain caused by the fluid buildup, or you may have had this procedure so the doctor could test the fluid to find the cause of the buildup.
Your chest may be sore where the doctor put the needle or catheter into your skin (the procedure site). This usually gets better after a day or two. You can go back to work or your normal activities as soon as you feel up to it.
If a large amount of pleural fluid was removed during the procedure, you will probably be able to breathe more easily.
If more pleural fluid collects and needs to be removed, another thoracentesis may be done later.
If the doctor sent the fluid to a lab for testing, it may take several days to get the results. The doctor or nurse will discuss the results with you.
This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover, but each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to feel better as quickly as possible.
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.
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if you have any problems.
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
Enter Q755 in the search box to learn more about "Thoracentesis: What to Expect at Home".
Adaptation Date: 5/5/2021
Adapted By: Alberta Health Services
Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 2006-2021 Healthwise, Incorporated. All rights reserved. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.