Thoracentesis in Ultrasound
Your local doctor has scheduled a thoracentesis to be done in Ultrasound on
__________________ at ________ ( ) am ( ) pm. Please report to the G3/3 Radiology desk
(Atrium elevators to the 3rd floor).
This handout explains what you can expect. Our doctors will explain the procedure, and ask you
to sign a formal consent.
Why do I need a Thoracentesis?
Your doctor has found that you have fluid around your lung. This is a problem that can occur for
Normally, there is no fluid around your lungs and your lungs can fill with air (inflate) fully
without a problem. When fluid builds up between your chest wall and lungs, it pushes on your
lungs so that they do not inflate properly. By removing the fluid, your lungs can once again fully
inflate with air.
A thoracentesis is also done to find out why fluid is building up within the chest. A small sample
of fluid can be removed for testing. This sample helps the doctor to figure out what may be
causing the fluid build-up.
What are symptoms of fluid around the lungs?
Early Symptoms Later Symptoms
Coughing on and off
Tight feeling in chest
Rapid/very difficult breathing
Feeling of doom or anxiety
How do I prepare for a thoracentesis?
1 You need to have blood work done before your procedure. This tests how well your blood
clots. This can be done the day of the procedure. Please have all outside lab work faxed to
Ultrasound Nursing Coordinator Office (608) 890-9122. The blood work includes a platelet
count and an INR.
2 If you currently take regular aspirin 325mg (baby aspirin 81 mg daily does not need to be
stopped), Coumadin, Plavix®, or any other blood thinners, stop taking them 3-5 days before
your thoracentesis. An Ultrasound nurse will call you to confirm and help you make plan.
We will check with your local doctor to make sure this is okay.
3 Tell us if you have allergies to latex, contrast dye, or medicines.
What should I expect during a thoracentesis?
The doctor uses an ultrasound (a machine that sends sound
waves through the skin and creates images on a TV screen) to
find the fluid. Most times, the fluid is drained from the middle
back or side. Your skin is cleaned with soap at the site the
doctor decides is best to drain the fluid.
Numbing medicine is injected under the skin at this site to help
with pain. A small needle is inserted into the fluid. After this, a
small tube is placed and the needle is taken out. The fluid is
drained out through the tube with a syringe.
At the end of the procedure, you may cough as your lungs start
to fully inflate again. This can last for an hour or so after the
fluid is removed. You should keep a dressing or Band-Aid® on
the site for the next 24 hours.
You may have a chest x-ray after the procedure. The chest x-ray
is taken to see if you have a buildup of air outside the lung. This is a rare, but may need further
After the local anesthetic wears off, you may feel slight pain at the site. Your pain should not be
severe, but patients have described it as mildly sore. No medicines are prescribed for the
soreness. If you have soreness, we suggest the use of Tylenol®. The soreness should go away
within the first 24 hours.
What can I do after the procedure?
You can go back to your normal routine as you are able. You should call your local doctor if you
begin to have early symptoms of fluid buildup again. Sometimes, the fluid will build up again,
and you may need to have another thoracentesis.
When do I call the doctor?
ξ If you feel dizzy, faint or light-headed.
ξ If your pain around the site gets worse rather than better 2-3 days later.
ξ If you are not feeling well and have a fever greater than 100.4° F (38° C).
ξ If you develop redness and swelling around the site.
If you have shortness of breath, or cannot catch your breath, or have a persistent cough with or
without the presence of blood, you need to go the nearest emergency room.
Any questions or concerns you may have about your procedure please call 1-800-323-8942.
This will give you the paging operator. Ask for the Ultrasound Department. The operator will
then connect you to someone in our department who can help.
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 © 12/2016 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing HF#6430