Thoracentesis is a procedure performed by a pulmonologist to remove fluid or air from the pleural space around the lungs. While a small amount of fluid is normal and helps prevent the pleura from rubbing together when you breathe, excess fluid — called a pleural effusion — can cause significant problems, including shortness of breath, pain with breathing, and an inability to fully inflate the lungs.
A thoracentesis — also referred to as pleural tapping or pleural fluid aspiration — may be done to find the cause of pleural effusion or to treat the symptoms of pleural effusion by removing air or fluid in the pleural space. The fluid can then be sent to the lab to diagnose an infection or other conditions.
Dr. White will explain the procedure to you. Ask any questions you have. You may be asked to sign a consent form that gives permission to do the procedure. Read the form carefully. Ask questions if anything is not clear.
Tell Dr. White if you:
You may feel minor discomfort during the procedure — typically described as deep pressure — in the space between the ribs where the needle or tube is inserted. However, once the fluid or air is removed, you’ll find it much more comfortable to breathe. If you have a large amount of fluid int he pleural space, a tube may be attached to allow slow drainage over a day or two — this is not common with biopsies or cultures. Once the needle is removed, a pressure dressing will be applied and an x-ray taken.
The procedure is fairly minor and safe. However, as with any procedure, there are some risks. These include:
These risks are not common and will vary depending on your general health and other risk factors. Dr. White will discuss all your risks and address any concerns you may have.