Thoracentesis (Pleural Fluid Sampling) – Preparation, Procedure, Risks

Thoracentesis or Pleural Fluid Sampling test is performed in severe cases of Pneumonia and other diseases that cause fluid accumulation in pleural cavity.

In case, you are wondering about Thoracentesis and why it is performed; let’s us understand the scenario where Pleural Fluid Sampling procedure is used.

In some severe cases of pneumonial infection/other diseases, the fluids gets accumulated in the space present between the lungs and the rib cage or diaphragm. This process of fluid collection is known as pleural effusion. It is usually detected on a Chest X-ray.

The sample of the fluid collected by pleural effusion is taken for analysis by the doctors. It is done for detecting the presence of germs in the fluid that had caused the infection.

Preparation for Thoracentesis

                     Patient may be shifted to a hospital for the procedure or it can be performed in the doctor’s clinic depending upon his/her medical condition.

                     Before the procedure, patient may be asked to sign a consent form that permits your doctor to perform this test.

                     Patient will be asked to undertake a chest x-ray or an ultrasound test prior to the procedure.

                     Doctor should be informed about any allergic reaction to the numbing medicine like lidocaine.

                     Doctor should be informed if patient is taking any medications such as aspirin, NSAID, or other drugs that affect blood clotting.

                     Patient may be asked to stop or adjust the dosage of various medications he/she is taking.

Thoracentesis Procedure

                     During the process, patient is asked to wear a hospital gown and made to sit on a bed. Patient is made to lean forward against the pillows.

                     Doctor uses stethoscope for listening to lungs sounds and slowly taps on the back for judging the amount of fluid collected in the pleural cavity.

                     Doctor applies the soap for disinfecting an area of skin and a small needle is applied for numbing a small area of skin between two lower ribs with the numbing medicine.

                     Doctor inserts a needle on an empty syringe into the fluid pocket and minor pressure is applied.

                     The syringe is used for collecting the fluid or it may be collected into bag by using plastic tubing.

                     Patient is instructed to hum out loud and avoid taking deep breath. The fluid is removed within 15 minutes and bandage is placed on back after the procedure.

Risks of Thoracentesis

Thoracentesis is usually a safe procedure with very less or no complications. However, there are few risks associated with the process.

                     Air leak may occur due to needle piercing the lung accidently. It is usually detected on X –ray and requires patient to spend few days in the hospital.

                     Infection or bleeding into the fluid space

                     Rapid pressure changes in your lung in case a large amount of fluid is removed

                     Pulmonary oedema due to leakage of fluids from bloodstream into the lungs

                     Shortness of breath