Thoracentesis is usually considered a minimally invasive surgery, which means it does not involve any major surgical cuts or incisions and is typically performed under local anesthesia. It is a procedure to remove fluid from the space between the lungs and chest wall or pleural space.
- The doctor will inject a local anesthetic (numbing medicine) into the area.
- When the area is numb, the doctor will put a needle in the space between the backside of the ribs.
- The patient may feel some pressure where the needle goes in. The doctor will slowly withdraw the fluid into the needle.
- The doctor will ask the patient to hold still, breathe out deeply, or hold their breath at certain times during the procedure.
- In thoracentesis, the doctor inserts a needle camera (and sometimes a plastic catheter) through the chest wall.
- The doctor often uses ultrasound pictures to help them guide the placement of the needle.
- Once the doctor removes the fluid from the pleural space, they may send it to a lab to determine what is causing the fluid buildup in the pleural space.
- If the doctor performs thoracentesis as a diagnostic procedure, then they may remove 20-100 mL of the fluid.
- For therapeutic purposes, removing 400-500 mL of the pleural fluid is often sufficient to reduce shortness of breath.
- The usual recommended limit is 1,000-1,500 mL in a single thoracentesis procedure.
- Depending on the volume of fluid in the pleural space, this procedure generally takes 10-15 minutes to complete. In rare cases, the procedure may last more than 30 minutes.
Through lab (histopathological) examination of the collected fluid, the doctor may try to pinpoint the cause of the pleural buildup such as mesothelioma (a type of cancer), lung infection, congestive heart failure, or kidney/liver disease. Knowing the cause of the fluid buildup can help doctor provide definitive treatment to the patient.
Why do I require thoracentesis?
A patient may require thoracentesis to remove the excess fluid from the space between their lungs and chest wall (pleural space). This provides relief from the associated symptoms such as shortness of breath and chest discomfort.
Thoracentesis is a procedure to remove fluid or air from around the lungs. The patient may be having excess fluid or air in the chest cavity. When this occurs, it’s harder to breathe because their lungs can’t inflate fully. This can cause shortness of breath and pain. These symptoms may worsen with physical activity. Thoracentesis can also help diagnose health problems such as:
- Pleural effusion (excess fluid in the chest cavity)
- Congestive heart failure (CHF) (a condition of the heart muscle when it cannot pump sufficient blood for the functioning of the body)
- Viral, fungal, or bacterial infections
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and other autoimmune diseases
- Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
- Pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in the lungs)
- Empyema (collection of pus in the pleural space)
- Liver failure
- Tuberculosis (TB)
- Reactions to medicines
What are the possible risks of thoracentesis?
Thoracentesis is usually very safe, offering more benefits than risks. In general, some potential risks include the following:
- Complete or partial collapse of the lung can occur if the lung is accidentally punctured by the needle during treatment
- Pulmonary edema (excess fluid in the lungs) occurs most commonly if too much fluid is removed from the pleural space
- Damage to the liver or spleen if the needle isn’t properly placed (rare)
- Bleeding (if the needle punctures one of the arteries or veins that run along the ribs)
- Side effects of anesthesia such as allergy
- Postoperative pain
- Postoperative infection
Patients with a history of a lung surgery face higher risks, as do patients with severe, irreversible lung disease such as asthma or emphysema. Patients with any condition that affects normal blood clotting may also face a higher risk of bleeding.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Top Is Thoracentesis a Major Surgery? Related Articles
Can Pneumonia Go Away On Its Own?Mild pneumonia may be healed by body’s defense system. However severe cases of pneumonia require medical attention especially viral pneumonia.
Common Medical Abbreviations & Terms
Doctors, pharmacists, and other health-care professionals use abbreviations, acronyms, and other terminology for instructions and information in regard to a patient's health condition, prescription drugs they are to take, or medical procedures that have been ordered. There is no approved this list of common medical abbreviations, acronyms, and terminology used by doctors and other health- care professionals. You can use this list of medical abbreviations and acronyms written by our doctors the next time you can't understand what is on your prescription package, blood test results, or medical procedure orders. Examples include:
- ANED: Alive no evidence of disease. The patient arrived in the ER alive with no evidence of disease.
- ARF: Acute renal (kidney) failure
- cap: Capsule.
- CPAP: Continuous positive airway pressure. A treatment for sleep apnea.
- DJD: Degenerative joint disease. Another term for osteoarthritis.
- DM: Diabetes mellitus. Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
- HA: Headache
- IBD: Inflammatory bowel disease. A name for two disorders of the gastrointestinal (BI) tract, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis
- JT: Joint
- N/V: Nausea or vomiting.
- p.o.: By mouth. From the Latin terminology per os.
- q.i.d.: Four times daily. As in taking a medicine four times daily.
- RA: Rheumatoid arthritis
- SOB: Shortness of breath.
- T: Temperature. Temperature is recorded as part of the physical examination. It is one of the "vital signs."
cryoprecipitateCryoprecipitate is a blood product containing specialized insoluble blood proteins known as coagulation factors that regulate the clotting and clot-dissolving processes. Cryoprecipitate is obtained from plasma, the fluid component of blood, and is used to treat patients with blood clotting (coagulation) disorders and to control hemorrhage during major surgery or during and after childbirth. Common side effects of cryoprecipitate include transfusion-related complications, allergic reactions, and post-transfusion bruising (purpura).
14 Best and Worst Foods for Your LiverGet some simple diet tips to keep your liver healthy, including the best veggies to keep disease away and some snacks you'll want to avoid.
How Long Is Pneumonia Contagious?Pneumonia may be contagious for 2-14 days. Usually, the goal of medications given for pneumonia is to limit the spread of the disease.
Is Pneumonia Contagious?Pneumonia is inflammation of the lung usually caused by bacterial or viral infection (rarely, also by fungi) that causes the air sacs to fill with pus. If inflammation affects both lungs, the infection is termed double pneumonia. If it affects one lung, it is termed single pneumonia. If it affects only a certain lobe of a lung it's termed lobar pneumonia. Most pneumonias are caused by bacteria and viruses, but some pneumonias are caused by inhaling toxic chemicals that damage lung tissue.
PneumoniaPneumonia is inflammation of the lungs caused by fungi, bacteria, or viruses. Symptoms and signs include cough, fever, shortness of breath, and chills. Antibiotics treat pneumonia, and the choice of the antibiotic depends upon the cause of the infection.
Do I Have Pneumonia QuizPneumonia can be deadly. Take the Pneumonia Quiz on MedicineNet to learn more about this highly contagious, infectious disease.
propofolPropofol is an intravenous anesthetic drug used for general anesthesia and sedation during surgical procedures. Common side effects of propofol include injection site burning, stinging or pain; low blood pressure (hypotension), reduced cardiac output, elevated blood pressure (hypertension), pause in breathing (apnea), lung impairment (respiratory acidosis), impaired movement, high level of emulsified fats in the blood (hyperlipidemia), and high triglyceride level in blood (hypertriglyceridemia). Abuse of propofol can cause death and other injuries.
succinylcholineSuccinylcholine is a skeletal muscle relaxant used for medical procedures done under general anesthesia, including tracheal intubation, mechanical ventilation, and surgeries. Common side effects of succinylcholine include postoperative muscle pain, jaw rigidity, muscle twitch (fasciculation), respiratory depression, cessation of breathing (apnea), low or high blood pressure (hypotension or hypertension), irregular heart rhythms (cardiac arrhythmias), slow or rapid heartbeat (bradycardia or tachycardia), cardiac arrest, increase in intraocular pressure (IOP), high blood potassium levels (hyperkalemia), severe life-threatening drug reaction with excessively high temperature (malignant hyperthermia), salivary gland enlargement, excessive salivation, rash, hypersensitivity reactions, and others.