Helping You Breathe Better

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. If you need a thoracentesis, trust Dr. White to provide the best care. Contact Integra Health to schedule your appointment.


Reasons You May Need a Thoracentesis

  • Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and another autoimmune disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Viral, fungal, or bacterial infections
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Empyema — a pocket of pus in the pleural space
  • Cancer
  • Liver failure
  • Tuberculosis (TB)
  • Pneumonia
  • Collagen vascular disease
  • Test for mesothelioma

When you visit Dr. White, she will do a complete pulmonary workup and advise you on treatment options based on your condition.

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.

To have the procedure performed, you’ll either be in the clinic or may be seen in the hospital, depending on whether you are going to be sedated or there are other conditions that would warrant having the procedure done in the hospital setting. Generally, you’ll go home the same day, although, in some cases, you may be asked to stay overnight to be monitored.

For the procedure, you will likely be sitting or lying down. The area where the needle will be inserted will be numbed and cleaned. Your pulmonologist will insert a needle between the ribs on your side or back and slowly withdraw fluid. 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.

When a thoracentesis is completed by a qualified pulmonologist, the procedure is fairly minor and safe. However, as with any procedure, there are some risks. These include:

  • Pneumothorax — air ni the pleural space that causes the lung to collapse
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Liver or spleen injury

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.

How to Prepare for Your Thoracentesis

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:

  • Are pregnant or think you may be pregnant
  • Are sensitive to or allergic to any medicines, latex, tape, or anesthetic medicines (local and general)
  • Take any medicines, including prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and other supplements
  • Have had a bleeding disorder
  • Take blood-thinning medicine (anticoagulant), aspirin, or other medicines that affect blood clotting

Make sure to:

  • Stop taking certain medicines before the procedure, if instructed by Dr. White
  • Plan to have someone drive you home from the hospital
  • Follow any other instructions your healthcare provider gives you

You may have imaging tests before the procedure. These are done to find the location of the fluid to be removed. You may have any of the below:

  • Chest X-ray
  • Chest fluoroscopy
  • Ultrasound
  • CT scan

To schedule your thoracentesis, contact Integra Health today.

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(951) 200-5154