A thoracentesis is a procedure in which fluid that has collected in the pleural space surrounding the lungs is removed. The pleural space typically contains only a few milliliters of fluid and surrounds each of the lungs; it helps in the movement of the lungs with the breathing cycle. As a result of abnormal processes, such as infection and inflammation that affect the lining of the lungs, fluid may build up in the pleural space. This can lead to symptoms such as shortness of breath and cough, or may allow an infection to persist despite antibiotic therapy.
For these reasons, this fluid is often drained with a thoracentesis. The procedure is generally considered safe, and is typically done at the bedside or in the interventional radiology suite. Usually ultrasound
is used to mark the site of the fluid, and then an injection of local anesthesia is given to numb up the spot on the back overlying this fluid. A needle/catheter device is then used to enter the pleural space and remove the fluid.
Risks during a thoracentesis include bleeding, infection, and a pneumothorax
(a collapsed lung) that may require a chest tube to fix. If you have questions about the procedure or the risks involve, you should talk to the doctors
performing the thoracentesis.