Thoracentesis and Chest Tube Insertion


You will receive instructions from staff at the interventional radiologist's office at least a day before the procedure. You may have blood drawn for pre-procedure testing at either the hospital or clinic. Staff will advise you if changes in your regular medication schedule are necessary. Make sure you let the staff know if you have any allergies to medication or to contrast material that may be used to enhance x-ray images. You will be asked to not eat or drink anything after midnight on the night before your procedure. In most cases continue to take any medications that you usually take, especially blood pressure medications. If you are on any blood thinning medication such as Coumadin, Plavix, Lovenox, or Heparin you should check with the staff about it and when you should stop the medication. If you have any allergies to medications or to contrast material make sure to let the staff know that as well. Make sure someone will be available to drive you home afterwards.


Thoracentesis is withdrawal of fluid or air from the pleural space. This can be done for diagnostic reasons to obtain fluid specimens to evaluate for chemical, bacterialogical and cellular composition. Thoracentesis is done therapeutically to relieve shortness of breath, difficulty breathing or instill medication into the pleural space. Chest tube may be inserted to remove air or blood from the pleural space.


You will be in a semi-sitting position with your arm raised over head. The site of insertion is determined by ultrasound or other x-ray imaging. Your skin will be cleansed, prepped and draped in a sterile manner. Local anesthetic is injected where the catheter will be inserted through the skin. The catheter is inserted and fluid is removed and sent to the lab for analysis. Chest tubes may be inserted and left in place to remove fluid, blood and air. Collection of air or blood in pleural space will cause the lung to collapse. A collection container will be connected to the chest tube allowing fluid, air, blood to drain over a period of time.