Thoracentesis in the ICU
What is a Thoracentesis?
A Thoracentesis is a procedure that removes
fluid from the space between your lungs and
your chest wall (pleural space).
Why is it done? There are several possible
reasons, such as:
ξ Recent fluid build-up with no clear
ξ To help diagnose an infection.
ξ To help diagnose cancer.
ξ To remove fluid and help the patient
breathe with less effort.
How is it done?
ξ You will be asked to return to your
ξ The skin around the procedure site
will be cleaned and sterile drapes
will be placed around the site.
ξ Numbing medicine will be injected
into your skin to lessen the pain.
ξ A needle or thin, plastic tube will be
placed between the ribs and into the
ξ A small sample of fluid can be
removed for testing. This helps the
doctor to figure out what may be
causing the fluid build-up in the
spaces around the lungs (pleural
ξ If there is excess fluid in the chest,
the doctor may remove some of it.
This is especially helpful if there is
so much fluid that you are in pain
and having trouble breathing.
The procedure most often does not cause
serious problems, but some risks are
involved. These include:
ξ Pain – You may feel a poke as the
doctor inserts the needle into the
chest. Numbing drugs will be used
to lessen the pain. Once the needle
is in, the pain is often mild and goes
ξ Bleeding – When the doctor inserts
the needle, there is a risk of nicking a
blood vessel. If this happens, the
bleeding is often minor and stops on
its own. You may notice a bruise.
Rarely, bleeding can occur in or
around the lungs and require surgery.
ξ Collapsed lung – Rarely, the needle
punctures the lung. Most often, the
small hole seals over quickly by
itself. If not, air can build-up around
the lung and cause it to collapse
(pneumothorax). If this were to
occur, the doctor may need to insert
a chest tube to drain air from around
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 6/2016 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing HF#6340.