ThoracentesisThe lungs function by expanding and deflating with each breath taken. There is a small chamber that is called the pleural space. It is located between your lungs and the inside wall of your chest. It is lubricated by a fluid that is secreted and absorbed at small rates, preventing friction of the lungs against the chest wall when they inflate. Just a small amount of this fluid is secreted. When this fluid or excess air builds up a test is done by inserting a needle into this space to gather fluid to try to determine the reason and test the fluid microscopically

Reasons for Thoracentesis

A Thoracentesis may be done for diagnostic or therapeutic reason.

The diagnostic reasons for the test fall into 2 categories; exudate and transudate fluids in the body. The exudate is cloudy, sometimes thick pus like liquid that seeps out of tissue due to infection or injury. Transudate is clear and flushes out to extracellular spaces of tissue.

Diagnostically the thoracentesis is run to determine what the fluid is and what specifically has caused it such as: infections, cancer, systemic lupus, pulmonary embolism or heart failure.

The therapeutic test is used to relieve shortness of breath or pain.

How do I get ready for a Thoracentesis?

Your Doctor will explain the procedure to you. A chest X-Ray or CT scan may be required. You will not need to fast or take any special medication in preparation for the test, though a sedative may be given. Your Doctor will ask a series of questions relating to your current health conditions, such as the medications you are taking, if you are pregnant etc.

What is it going to be like?

Your test may be conducted as an outpatient or hospital setting, depending on the circumstances and your physical condition. These are the general steps that will be taken:

  • You will be asked to remove jewelry or other items and get into a gown.
  • Your vital signs, blood pressure, heart rate and breathing will be monitored throughout the procedure.
  • The Doctor will place you in a sitting position and raise your arms to the best position to insert the needle to do the test.
  • You may be required to sit still and breathe in a shallow manner.
  • Fluid will be taken
  • A bandage will be placed over the spot where the needle was inserted.
  • After the procedure your vital signs, etc. will be continued to be monitored for a period of time
  • You will be able to go home if your procedure is done as an out-patient, though you should not drive yourself.
  • You will need to monitor the bandage for leaking.
  • The Doctor may require a chest X-Ray or CT scan.
  • You can resume normal activity as required by the Doctor
  • If you develop a fever, redness and swelling, excess drainage from the site or shortness of breath call the Doctors office immediately.

Are there any risks?

While any procedure can have risks, they are usually minimal, but could include:

  • Trapped air
  • Fluid in the lungs
  • Bleeding
  • Infection

So what happens after?

You will meet with your Doctor to discuss the findings and treatments available.

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