Pleural fluid aspiration; Pleural tap
Thoracentesis is a procedure to remove fluid from the space between the lining of the outside of the lungs (pleura) and the wall of the chest.
The test is done in the following way:
No special preparation is needed before the test. A chest x-ray or ultrasound will be done before and after the test.
You will feel a stinging sensation when the local anesthetic is injected. You may feel pain or pressure when the needle is inserted into the pleural space.
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 and to relieve symptoms from the fluid buildup.
Normally the pleural cavity contains only a very small amount of fluid.
Testing the fluid will help your provider determine the cause of pleural effusion. Possible causes include:
If your provider suspects that you have an infection, a culture of the fluid may be done to test for bacteria.
Risks may include any of the following:
A chest x-ray or ultrasound is commonly done after the procedure to detect possible complications.
Blok BK. Thoracentesis. In: Roberts JR, Custalow CB, Thomsen TW, eds. Roberts and Hedges' Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine and Acute Care. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 9.
Ruhl TS, Good JL. Thoracentesis. In: Fowler GC, Choby BA, Iyengar D, et al, eds. Pfenninger and Fowler's Procedures for Primary Care. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 218.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 7/31/2022
Reviewed By: Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, MHS, Paul F. Harron, Jr. Professor of Medicine, Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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