Thoracentesis

What is a thoracentesis?

Thoracentesis is a procedure used to remove excess fluid from the space between the lungs and chest wall (the pleural space). The fluid buildup may be caused by infection, inflammation, heart failure or cancer. A diagnostic thoracentesis is performed to determine the cause of the fluid buildup while a therapeutic thoracentesis is performed to relieve shortness of breath and pain.

How should I prepare for my exam?
  • If you are taking warfarin (Coumadin), you will need to have an INR and Platelet count drawn the day before or the day of the procedure, prior to arriving. 
  • If you are taking blood thinners, you will need to hold the medication prior to your procedure.  
  • Do not eat or drink for 4 hours before your appointment. 
  • You will need a driver/ride home after your procedure.
How long will my exam take?

Thoracentesis procedures typically take 45 minutes.

What happens during my exam?

You will be positioned on a cushioned table. The site where the needle will be placed will be cleansed and draped with sterile towels. A numbing medicine will be applied to your chest. Once the area is numb, the needle will be inserted through the chest wall and the fluid will be removed.

A chest x-ray will be taken after the procedure.

What happens after my exam?

If this was a diagnostic procedure, a sample of fluid will be sent to a laboratory for examination. The findings will be sent to your healthcare provider who will then contact you to discuss the results.

You will be monitored for 30-60 minutes after your procedure.

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