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Our Health Information Database is provided by A.D.A.M. the leading provider of electronic and printed information for professionals and consumers in healthcare and industry. It provides authoritative, reliable content written and reviewed by an editorial board who represent a variety of specialty areas. This board reviews and evaluates all healthcare information to ensure it is accurate, reliable, and can be used with complete confidence. And now you have access to the same authoritative, trusted clinical information relied upon by health professionals around the world.

Special Considerations


This article may contain information on medical procedures that are not recommended or endorsed by Catholic Health Partners. Promotion of this topic is prohibited by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Services. In the Ethical and Religious Directives, Catholic health institutions are prohibited from condoning contraceptive practices. Married couples should be given information about natural family planning as well as the church’s teachings on responsible parenthood. The information in this article is designed for educational purposes only. It is not provided as a professional service or as medical advice for specific patients.

Thoracentesis

Definition

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.

Alternative Names

Pleural fluid aspiration; Pleural tap

How the test is performed

A small area of skin on your back is cleaned. 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. Fluid is collected and may be sent to a laboratory for testing (pleural fluid analysis).

How to prepare for the test

No special preparation is needed before the test. A chest x-ray will be performed before and after the test.

Do not cough, breathe deeply, or move during the test to avoid injury to the lung.

How the test will feel

You will sit on a bed or on the edge of a chair or bed. Your head and arms will rest on a table.

The skin around the procedure site is cleaned and the area is draped. A local numbing medicine (anesthetic) is injected into the skin. The thoracentesis needle is inserted above the rib into the pleural space.

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.

Tell your health care provider if you feel shortness of breath or chest pain.

Why the test is performed

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:

Normal Values

Normally the pleural cavity contains only a very small amount of fluid.

What abnormal results mean

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.

What the risks are

Special considerations

A chest x-ray is often done after the procedure to detect possible complications.

References

Blok BK. Thoracentesis. In: Roberts JR, Hedges JR, eds. Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 9.

Celli BR. Diseases of the diaphragm, chest wall, pleura, and mediastinum. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 100.

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    Review Date: 9/15/2010

    Review By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

    The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2010 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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