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Lung Disease & Respiratory Health Center

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Thoracentesis

How It Is Done continued...

The needle site between your ribs will be cleaned with an antiseptic solution. Your doctor will give you a local anesthetic in your chest wall so you won't feel any pain when the longer needle that withdraws the fluid is inserted. Once the area is numb, your doctor will insert the needle to where the fluid has collected (pleural space). You may feel some mild pain or pressure as the needle enters the pleural space.

A syringe or a small tube attached to a vacuum bottle is used to remove the pleural fluid. Your doctor will collect fluid to send to the lab. Once the fluid is removed, the needle or small tube is removed and a bandage is put on the site.

This procedure takes about 10 to 15 minutes.

After the test

An X-ray may be taken right after the procedure to make sure that no complications have occurred.

If more pleural fluid collects and needs to be removed, another thoracentesis may be done later.

How It Feels

When you are given the shot to numb your skin at the needle site, you will feel a sharp stinging or burning sensation that lasts a few seconds. When the needle is inserted into the chest wall, you may again feel a sharp pain for a few seconds.

When the pleural fluid is removed, you may feel a sense of "pulling" or pressure in your chest. Tell your doctor or nurse if you feel faint or if you have any shortness of breath, chest pain, or uncontrollable cough.

If a large amount of pleural fluid was removed during the procedure, you will probably be able to breathe more easily.

Risks

Thoracentesis is generally a safe procedure. A chest X-ray may be done right after the procedure to make sure that no complications have occurred. Complications may include:

  • A partial collapse of the lung (pneumothorax). This may occur if the needle used to remove the pleural fluid punctures the lung, allowing air to flow into the pleural space.
  • Pulmonary edema, which may occur if a large amount of fluid is removed.
  • Infection and bleeding.
  • Damage to the liver or spleen, though this is rare.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 01, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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