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Thoracentesis

Preparation:

  • Please arrive 30 minutes before the scheduled procedure time
  • Please plan to be at the hospital for 1-2 hours, barring any complications.

Medications:

You should continue to take your usual medications on schedule, unless this conflicts with the following precautions:

Most blood thinners should not be taken for 5 days prior to the procedure. Please alert the Procedure Scheduler if you are on blood thinners, so that we may give you instructions that are specific for your situation.

Additionally, please notify us prior to the procedure if you are taking anti-inflammatory medications such as Aspirin, Advil, Motrin or Naprosyn, as you will need to be off of these medications for several days prior to the Thoracentesis.

What to expect:

Prior to the thoracentesis you will meet with a radiologist who will explain the test and answer any questions that you may have. You will sit on the edge of a bed with your arms resting on a table. A small area of skin on your back is cleaned and numbing medicine (local anesthetic) is injected in this area. A needle is placed through the skin and muscles of the chest wall into the space around the lungs, called the pleural space.

Pleural fluid is then collected and sent to the laboratory for testing. Thoracentesis usually takes 10–15 minutes, but it may take longer if there is a large quantity of fluid to be drained. Following the procedure, the results of the fluid lab tests will be sent to your doctor. This will help your doctor determine the best treatment plan for you.

Potential Complications:

Thoracentesis is typically well tolerated and has a very low incidence of complications. You may experience a stinging sensation when the local anesthetic is injected. You may also feel some pressure or pain when the needle or plastic catheter is inserted into the pleural space. Please notify us if you develop any bleeding, chest pain, shortness of breath, or a fever greater than 101 degrees.

Thoracentesis may be complicated by a pneumothorax (collapse of the lung). If a pneumothorax occurs, and the collapse is minor, it typically will resolve on its own. For a larger collapse, a chest tube will need to be placed to re-expand the lung, and you may need to be hospitalized.