Ultrasound Guided Thoracentesis

What is Thoracentesis?

An ultrasound guided thoracentesis is a procedure in which a needle is inserted through your chest wall to remove built-up fluid in your lung space (pleural effusion). Thoracentesis may be done to determine the cause of fluid buildup and/or provide relief from pleural effusion symptoms such as shortness of breath.

Before the Procedure

Providing safe, quality patient care is our highest priority. For the best experience please properly prepare for your appointment:

  • You may eat and drink as normal. No special diet is required.
  • Certain medications cannot be taken prior to this procedure; your doctor will provide instructions if you need to adjust your medication.
  • Do not bring children with you to your appointment. For their safety children are not allowed to accompany you in the exam room. Staff are unable to monitor children.

During the Procedure

A team of nurses, sonographers, and provider (doctor, physician assistant or nurse practitioner) will explain and perform the procedure.

  • Your blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen level will be measured before and after fluid is removed.
  • You will sit upright on an exam table and a sonographer will use ultrasound to find the built-up fluid.
  • The provider and sonographer decide on the safest site to remove fluid and clean the skin.
  • Provider uses a small needle to inject numbing medication before inserting a small tube / catheter.
  • Fluid will then be removed from the chest. Some of the fluid may be sent to the laboratory for testing.
  • While the fluid is being removed, you may feel a pulling sensation or pressure in your chest. It is common to have the urge to cough as the lung re-expands into the space that was filled with fluid. You will be prompted to let the provider and sonographer know how you feel as the fluid is removed.
  • After fluid removal, the catheter will be removed, and a bandage will be placed over the procedure site.
  • The procedure takes approximately 30 minutes.

After the Procedure

  • You may have a chest X-ray immediately following the procedure.
  • You will be monitored for 30-60 minutes or longer per provider discretion.
  • A nurse will provide home instructions to care for your procedure site.
  • If your fluid was sent to lab, your care provider or ordering clinic will call you with the results.
  • Follow-up care is a key part of your health. Be sure to make and go to all appointments and call your primary care provider if you have questions.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your provider.

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