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Pulmonary Thoracentesis

How is the Pulmonary Thoracentesis Test Performed?

The Test is Done in the Following Way:
  • You sit on a bed or on the edge of a chair or bed. Your head and arms rest on a table.
  • The skin around the procedure site is cleaned. A local numbing medicine (anesthetic) is injected into the skin.
  • A needle is placed through the skin and muscles of the chest wall into the space around the lungs, called the pleural space.
  • Fluid is drawn out with the needle.
  • The fluid may be sent to a laboratory for testing (Pleural Fluid Analysis).

How do I to Prepare for the Test?

  • No special preparation is needed before the test. A chest x-ray will probably be done before and after the test.
  • Do not cough, breathe deeply, or move during the test to avoid injury to the lung.

How the Test will Feel?

  • You will feel a stinging sensation when the local anesthetic is injected. You may feel minor pain or pressure when the needle is inserted into the pleural space.
  • Tell your health care provider if you feel short of breath or have chest pain.

Why the Test is Performed?

  • Normally, very little fluid is in the pleural space. A buildup of too much fluid between the layers of the pleura is called a pleural effusion.
  • The test is performed to determine the cause of the extra fluid, or to relieve symptoms from the fluid buildup.
The Test may also be Performed for the Following Conditions:
  • Asbestos-Related Pleural Effusion
  • Collagen Vascular Disease
  • Drug Reactions
  • Hemothorax
  • Lung Cancer
  • Pancreatitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Pulmonary Embolism
  • Pulmonary Veno-Occlusive Disease
  • Thyroid Disease
  • Normal Results
  • Normally the Pleural Cavity contains only a very small amount of fluid.

What do Abnormal Results Indicate?

Testing the fluid will help your health care provider determine the cause of pleural effusion. Possible causes may include:
  • Cancer
  • Cirrhosis
  • Heart failure
  • Infection
  • Inflammation
  • Malnutrition
  • Kidney disease

If your health care provider suspects that you have an infection, a culture of the fluid may be done to test for bacteria.


Risks can Include any of the Following:
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Pneumothorax
  • Respiratory Distress
  • Considerations

A chest x-ray is done after the procedure to detect possible complications.

Alternative Names:
  • Pleural Fluid Aspiration
  • Pleural Tap