Why do I require thoracentesis?
A patient may require thoracentesis to remove the excess fluid from the space between their lungs and chest wall (pleural space). This provides relief from the associated symptoms such as shortness of breath and chest discomfort.
Thoracentesis is a procedure to remove fluid or air from around the lungs. The patient may be having excess fluid or air in the chest cavity. When this occurs, it’s harder to breathe because their lungs can’t inflate fully. This can cause shortness of breath and pain. These symptoms may worsen with physical activity. Thoracentesis can also help diagnose health problems such as:
- Pleural effusion (excess fluid in the chest cavity)
- Congestive heart failure (CHF) (a condition of the heart muscle when it cannot pump sufficient blood for the functioning of the body)
- Viral, fungal, or bacterial infections
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and other autoimmune diseases
- Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
- Pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in the lungs)
- Empyema (collection of pus in the pleural space)
- Liver failure
- Tuberculosis (TB)
- Reactions to medicines
What are the possible risks of thoracentesis?
Thoracentesis is usually very safe, offering more benefits than risks. In general, some potential risks include the following:
- Complete or partial collapse of the lung can occur if the lung is accidentally punctured by the needle during treatment
- Pulmonary edema (excess fluid in the lungs) occurs most commonly if too much fluid is removed from the pleural space
- Damage to the liver or spleen if the needle isn’t properly placed (rare)
- Bleeding (if the needle punctures one of the arteries or veins that run along the ribs)
- Side effects of anesthesia such as allergy
- Postoperative pain
- Postoperative infection
Patients with a history of a lung surgery face higher risks, as do patients with severe, irreversible lung disease such as asthma or emphysema. Patients with any condition that affects normal blood clotting may also face a higher risk of bleeding.