(Pleural Fluid Aspiration; Pleural Tap)
A pleural effusion is a build-up of fluid in the space between the lungs and the chest wall. This space is called the pleural space. Thoracentesis is a procedure to remove fluid from this area.
There are two types of thoracentesis:
- Therapeutic thoracentesis—to relieve the symptoms of fluid accumulation
- Diagnostic thoracentesis—to test for the cause of the fluid build-up
Reasons for Procedure
There is always a small amount of fluid in the pleural space. The fluid helps to lubricate the area. When too much fluid builds up in this space, it can make it difficult to breathe.
Your doctor may want to test some of the fluid after removing it. The build-up of fluid can be a symptom of diseases or disorders, such as:
Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a thoracentesis, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
- A collapsed lung
- Fluid building up again
- Damage to the lung, liver or spleen
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
What to Expect
A local anesthetic will be used. It will numb the area where the needle will be inserted.
Description of the Procedure
You may be asked to sit upright on the edge of a bed or chair. Your arms will be resting on a nearby table. If your procedure involves a CT scan, you may be asked to lie on a table. Try to avoid coughing, breathing deeply, or moving during the procedure.
A small patch of skin on your back, chest, or under your armpit will be sterilized. Anesthesia will be applied to this patch. It will help numb the area.
The doctor may use ultrasound or CT scan images to guide the needle and monitor the fluid. A needle or thin plastic catheter will be inserted between your ribs. The needle or catheter is then passed into the pleural space. Some or all of the fluid will be drawn into the syringe.