Thoracentesis is a common procedure used for the diagnosis and treatment of pleural fluid (pleural effusion or lung fluid). Your pleura is a large, thin sheet of tissue that wraps around the outside of your lungs and lines the inside of your chest cavity. A thoracentesis can be performed with or without ultrasound guidance, and a small needle is used to enter the fluid. Usually, only local anesthesia is needed for adequate patient comfort.
- Pleural effusion results from many conditions, including post surgery, congestive heart failure, liver disease, kidney disease, infections, cancer, lupus, TB, and radiation exposure
- The diagnosis of pleural effusions depends on obtaining a sample of pleural fluid
- Performing thoracentesis allows the pleural fluid to be analyzed for chemical content, infectious problems and abnormal cells, including cancer
- If malignancy is suspected and pleural fluid is non-diagnostic, medical thoracoscopy is usually performed
- The safest way to sample the fluid is by thoracentesis
- In most cases, ultrasound guidance is used during thoracentesis to improve procedure safety and to determine the optimal location to sample
- Thoracentesis can remove pleural fluid resulting in improvement in shortness of breath, coughing, hypoxemia (low oxygen levels), and the inability to lie flat