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"Can a lung infection require thoracentesis?"
I have a lung infection. Fluid has build up. What should I know about thoracentesis?
A thoracentesis is a procedure in which fluid is removed from the space surrounding the lungs (called the pleural space). The pleural space is composed of the area between the visceral pleural membrane (adherent to the lungs) and the parietal pleural membrane (which lines the chest wall). Usually there is only a tiny amount of fluid in this space and the two membranes are essentially stuck together. In some disease processes, however, fluid can abnormally accumulate in this space and cause symptoms such as difficulty breathing and chest pain. One of the common causes of a pleural effusion (fluid in the pleural space) is a lung infection such as pneumonia. If the pneumonia abuts the edge of the lung, the pleural membrane can become inflamed and the subsequent inflammatory process can lead to an effusion. The thoracentesis can be helpful in this scenario, to provide both relief from drainage of the fluid, and also help make a diagnosis (ie, it may isolate the organism responsible for the pneumonia). The procedure itself involves numbing of the skin on the back over the effusion. A small incision is made with a scalpel, and then a larger needle/catheter apparatus is threaded through the skin and into the pleural space. Fluid is then removed with a vacuum bottle or syringe. The procedure is either done at the bedside or in the radiology suite. Please discuss this procedure with your physician for more information.
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