Skip to Content

Chest Tubes In Children


A chest tube is also known as chest drain or chest drainage tube. It is a plastic tube that is put through the side of your child's chest. It uses a suction device to remove air, blood, or fluid from around your child's lungs or heart. A chest tube will help your child breathe more easily.


Before your child's procedure:

  • Informed consent is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that your child may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your child's medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done to your child. Make sure all of your questions are answered.
  • Emotional support: Stay with your child for comfort and support as often as possible while he is in the hospital. Ask another family member or someone close to the family to stay with your child when you cannot be there. Bring items from home that will comfort your child, such as a favorite blanket or toy.
  • Preoperative care: Medicine may be given to help your child relax. Your child will be taken to the room where the procedure or surgery will be done.
  • An IV is a small tube placed in your child's vein that is used to give him medicine or liquids.
  • Anesthesia medicine: Your child may have any of the following types of anesthesia medicine during his procedure:
    • General anesthesia will keep your child asleep and free from pain during surgery. Anesthesia may be given through your child's IV. He may instead breathe it in through a mask or a tube placed down his throat. The tube may cause your child to have a sore throat when he wakes up.
    • Local anesthesia: This medicine may be given to make your child more comfortable during the procedure. It is a shot of medicine that will be put into the skin or mucus membrane. It is used to numb the area and dull your child's pain. Your child may still feel pressure or pushing during the procedure.
    • Nerve block anesthesia: This is a shot of medicine that will make your child lose feeling in an area before a procedure. This is also called regional anesthesia. It may be used to numb the nerves that give feeling to your child's chest.
  • Antibiotic medicine: Your child may be given antibiotic (germ-killing) medicine to prevent or treat infection.
  • Your child may need extra oxygen if his blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. Your child may get oxygen through a mask placed over his nose and mouth or through small tubes placed in his nostrils. Ask your child's healthcare provider before you take off the mask or oxygen tubing.

During your child's procedure:

Your child's healthcare provider makes a small incision in your child's chest. A tool is used to make an opening through the chest muscle. The chest tube is inserted slowly until it reaches the pleural space. Your child's healthcare provider may use an ultrasound to guide him during the insertion. When the tube is in place, it is connected to a suction or drainage device and a container. Stitches may be sewn into your child's chest wall to hold the tube in place. Tape may also be used to secure the tube before it is covered with a bandage.

After your child's procedure:

Your child will be taken to a room where he can rest after the procedure. Healthcare providers will watch him closely. When healthcare providers see that your child is okay, he will be taken to his hospital room.

Pain medicine:

Your child will be given medicine to decrease pain. Your child may be able to use patient controlled anesthesia (PCA). This is medicine that your child can give himself by pushing a button. The medicine is given by a pump, through your child's IV tube. The pump is set so that your child cannot give himself too much medicine. Tell a healthcare provider if your child's pain does not go away or comes back. Your child may have side effects from the medicine. Tell a healthcare provider if your child has trouble breathing, is very sleepy, or has an upset stomach.

Chest tube removal:

  • Your child's healthcare provider will tell you when the chest tube can be removed. The chest tube can be taken out when your child's lung is working normally again. One sign of this is little or no fluid draining into the chest tube. Another sign is no air leaking for 1 to 2 days. Your child may need a chest x-ray to make sure his lung is working as it should.
  • Your child may be given medicine to treat pain before the tube is removed. The tape is removed and the stitches that are holding the tube in place will be loosened. Your child may need to breathe a certain way as the tube is taken out. Your child's healthcare provider will remove the tube and he may tighten the stitches to close the opening. He will cover the area with a bandage that will stop air from getting into your child's chest.


  • Your child may get an infection, or the place where the tube goes in may bleed too much. Your child's organs, blood vessels, or nerves may get damaged. Your child could have chest pain after the procedure. Your child may need to have the procedure again if the tube gets pulled out. If your child's condition comes back after treatment, he may need another chest tube. The chest tube may not decrease your child's signs and symptoms, or your child's healthcare provider may not be able to insert the tube. If this happens, your child may need to have another procedure or surgery.
  • If you do not want your child to have a chest tube inserted, he may have more trouble breathing. If your child does not get enough oxygen, his heart and brain may be damaged. This can be life-threatening.


You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Chest Tubes In Children (Inpatient Care)

Micromedex® Care Notes