Thoracentesis Procedure

Treating Cardiovascular Diseases in Wisconsin and Northern Illinois

A thoracentesis is a procedure to remove excess fluid in the space between your lung and your chest wall, otherwise known as the pleural space.  The pleural space normally has a small amount of fluid, however, some conditions can cause excess fluid to accumulate.  Removal of the excess fluid will allow the lung to fully expand.  Patients can often breathe easier when the fluid is removed.

Risks and Side Effects of a Thoracentesis Procedure

Risks and/or complications of a thoracentesis can include bleeding from the puncture site and a collapsed lung (pneumothorax).  Additionally, patients may have bruising, pain, or infection.  Side effects include coughing during the end of the procedure.  This occurs because the lung is expanding.

How to Prepare for a Thoracentesis Procedure

There is no preparation needed for this procedure.  However, if you take any blood thinners, you will be asked to stop those 5 to 7 days prior to the procedure.  You may also be asked if you have ever had any bleeding or clotting problems and if you have an allergy to latex.  There is no need to fast for a thoracentesis.  This is an outpatient procedure so there is no need for a hospital stay afterwards unless there is a complication. 

Please arrive 10 to 15 minutes prior to your procedure time to fill out paperwork.  After your paperwork is filled out, you will be asked to change into a hospital gown from the waist up.  You will be cleansed with a special soap that may turn your skin an orange color.

What to Expect during a Thoracentesis Procedure

A thoracentesis can be done in a doctor’s office,  hospital room, or as an outpatient in the Diagnostic and Treatment Center. A table will be placed in front of you so that you may lean forward and rest your arms upon the table during the procedure. You will be asked to remain still and to avoid taking a deep breathe or coughing.

The process usually takes about 10 to 15 minutes, but it could take up to 45 minutes if you have a lot of fluid that needs to be removed. You are awake for the entire procedure.  Accompanying you in the room are the physician and an assistant who is usually a nurse.

The doctor is positioned behind you.  Often the doctor will use an ultrasound machine to locate the exact location of the fluid.  This ultrasound requires gel that may feel cool on your back.  A little pressure may be applied to enhance the view for the doctor. 

Next, the doctor will administer numbing medication at the site.  This is done with a small needle.  You may feel a prick and then a burning sensation.  The doctor then inserts a needle and small plastic tubing into the pleural space to drain the fluid.  You may feel pressure with this and while the fluid drains, you may have the urge to cough due to your lung expanding.   Once the fluid is removed, the needle and tubing will be removed and a small bandage will be placed on the site.  The fluid may be sent for several tests to determine the reason for the excess pleural fluid.

What to Expect after the Thoracentesis Procedure

After the procedure, you will have your blood pressure, pulse, and respirations checked frequently for up to several hours.  Additionally, you may have a chest x-ray to check for complications.  You will stay for a few hours after the thoracentesis to monitor for complications.  Then, you will be released to go home.  Patients are discouraged from driving themselves home.  You may be sore in the area where the needle was inserted s you may take Tylenol or ibuprofen as per the doctor’s recommendations and in accordance with your current medications. 

Why Choose Aurora for a Thoracentesis Procedure

Aurora Health Care is a leader in comprehensive cardiovascular care. Our physicians have extensive experience in treating patients with a thoracentesis procedure and our caregivers focus on delivering the highest quality of care possible.

Aurora doctors are conveniently located throughout eastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois. Find a doctor or vascular specialist near you. To get a second opinion or if you need assistance finding a provider, please call 888-649-6892.