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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.


The week before your child's procedure:

  • Bring your child's medicine bottles or a list of his medicines when you see his healthcare provider. Tell your child's healthcare provider if he has allergies or any other medical conditions.
  • Your child may need to have blood tests. Healthcare providers may do a chest ultrasound or CT scan to look at your child's lungs and other organs. Ask your child's healthcare provider for more information about these tests. Write down the date, time and location of each test.

The night before your child's procedure:

  • Ask caregivers about directions for eating and drinking.

The day of your child's procedure:

  • Write down the correct date, time, and location of your child's procedure.
  • Do not give any medicines to your child on the day of the procedure without first asking your child's healthcare provider. This includes prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, herbs, or food supplements. Bring all the medicines your child is taking, including the pill bottles, to the hospital.
  • Healthcare providers may insert an intravenous (IV) tube into your child's vein. A vein in the arm is usually chosen. Through the IV tube, your child may be given liquids and medicine.
  • An anesthesiologist may talk to you before your child's procedure. He may give your child some medicine to make him sleepy before his procedure.
  • You or a close family member will be asked to sign a legal document called a consent form. It gives caregivers permission to do the procedure or surgery on your child. It also explains the problems that may happen, and your choices. Make sure all your questions are answered before you sign this form.


What will happen:

  • Your child is taken to the room where his procedure will be done. The skin on your child's chest where the tube will be inserted is cleaned and covered with sheets. He is placed in a position where both your child and his healthcare provider are comfortable. Your child is given anesthesia medicine to numb the skin and muscles of his chest or to put your child to sleep.
  • Your child's healthcare provider will make a small incision in your child's chest. A tool is used to make an opening through his chest muscle. The chest tube will be inserted slowly until it reaches the pleural space. Your child's healthcare provider may use a chest ultrasound to guide him during the insertion. Once the tube is in place, it is connected to longer tubing, 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 hold the tube in place before it is covered with bandages.

After your child's procedure:

Your child will be taken to a room where he can rest after the procedure. When healthcare providers see that your child is okay, he may be allowed to go home. If healthcare providers want your child to stay in the hospital, he will be taken back to his hospital room.


  • Your child cannot make it to his procedure on time.

Seek Care Immediately if

  • Your child does not want to eat or drink.
  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child has more trouble breathing.
  • Your child has sudden chest pain.
  • Your child's skin turns blue.


  • 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.

Care Agreement

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.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.