Thoracentesis is a procedure to remove fluid from the space between the lining of the outside of the lungs (pleura) and the wall of the chest.
The test is done in the following way:
No special preparation is needed before the test. A chest x-ray will probably be done before and after the test.
Do not cough, breathe deeply, or move during the test to avoid injury to the lung.
You will feel a stinging sensation when the local anesthetic is injected. You may feel pain or pressure when the needle is inserted into the pleural space.
Normally, very little fluid is in the pleural space. A buildup of too much fluid between the layers of the pleura is called a pleural effusion.
The test is performed to determine the cause of the extra fluid, or to relieve symptoms from the fluid buildup.
The test may be also performed for the following conditions:
Normally the pleural cavity contains only a very small amount of fluid.
Testing the fluid will help your health care provider determine the cause of pleural effusion. Possible causes include:
If your health care provider suspects that you have an infection, a culture of the fluid may be done to test for bacteria.
Risks may include any of the following:
A chest x-ray is done after the procedure to detect possible complications.
Pleural fluid aspiration; Pleural tap
Broaddus C, Light RW. Pleural effusion. In: Mason RJ, Broaddus CV, Martin TR, et al, eds. Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 73.
Celli BR. Diseases of the diaphragm, chest wall, pleura, and mediastinum. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 99.
Updated by: Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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