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Chest Tubes


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 chest. It uses a suction device to remove air, blood, or fluid from around your lungs or heart. A chest tube will help you breathe more easily.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you 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 medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.


Keep the head of your bed raised to help you breathe easier. You can also raise your head and shoulders up on pillows or rest in a reclining chair. If you feel short of breath, let caregivers know right away.

A pulse oximeter

is a device that measures the amount of oxygen in your blood. A cord with a clip or sticky strip is placed on your finger, ear, or toe. The other end of the cord is hooked to a machine.


  • Antibiotics: You may be given antibiotic medicine to prevent an infection.
  • Pain medicine: Caregivers may give you medicine to take away or decrease your pain.
    • Do not wait until the pain is severe to ask for your medicine. Tell caregivers if your pain does not decrease. The medicine may not work as well at controlling your pain if you wait too long to take it.
    • Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling a caregiver when you want to get out of bed or if you need help.

Prevent problems with the chest tube:

  • Find a comfortable position: You may have pain or discomfort while the chest tube is in. Lie in a different position to help decrease your pain.
  • Deep breathe and cough: Deep breathing helps open the air passages in your lungs. Coughing helps to bring up mucus from your lungs. You can deep breathe and cough on your own or with the help of an incentive spirometer.
    • Take a deep breath and hold the breath as long as you can. Then push the air out of your lungs with a deep, strong cough. Cough into a tissue and throw it away. Take 10 deep breaths in a row every hour that you are awake. Remember to follow each deep breath with a cough.
    • An incentive spirometer can help you take deeper breaths. Put the plastic piece into your mouth and take a steady, deep breath in. Hold your breath as long as you can, and then breathe out. Use your incentive spirometer 10 times every hour that you are awake.
  • Check your chest tube for kinks or loops: Keep the tube close to you when you are in bed, but do not lie on it. Do not let loops of tubing hang down the side of your bed. Be sure your tubing is long enough so that you can move and turn in bed without pulling on it. Never clamp the tube yourself.
  • Keep the chest tube drainage container below the level of your chest: This will help fluids drain out from your chest to the container below. This will also help prevent fluids from flowing back into your chest.
  • Make sure your chest tube is secure: Make sure your chest tube is securely taped to your body. Your chest tube may also be taped to the suction device to help prevent the tubes from coming apart.
  • Do not turn knobs or change settings on your device unless a healthcare provider tells you to: If your chest tube device has water in it, the water should bubble gently, with short periods of no bubbling. If there is a lot of bubbling that does not stop, this may mean that there is an air leak.


  • You may get an infection in the area where the tube was inserted. The tube may damage body organs that are close to your lungs. Your chest tube may move out of place when you move or turn. If this happens, you may need to have another chest tube put in.
  • You may get a blood clot in your leg or arm. This can cause pain and swelling, and it can stop blood from flowing where it needs to go in your body. The blood clot can break loose and travel to your lungs. A blood clot in your lungs can cause chest pain and trouble breathing. This can be life-threatening.


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

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 (Inpatient Care)

Micromedex® Care Notes