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How to Care for your Chest or Abdominal Catheter

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jul 7, 2024.

What do I need to know about a chest or abdominal catheter?

A chest or abdominal catheter helps remove fluid from your chest or abdomen. This may decrease symptoms such as shortness of breath, pain, or nausea. One end of the catheter sits inside your abdomen or chest. The other end sits outside of your body. Your healthcare provider will show you or your caregiver how to drain fluid through the catheter.

How is a chest or abdominal catheter inserted?

You may be given local anesthesia to numb the area and medicine to help you relax. With local anesthesia, you may still feel pressure or pushing during the procedure, but you should not feel any pain. Your healthcare provider will make a small incision in your chest or abdomen and insert the catheter. The catheter will be held in place with stitches. Your healthcare provider will remove fluid through your catheter. A bandage will be placed over the catheter. The area may be sore or swollen for a few days. You may be given medicine to decrease pain.

How often should I drain fluid?

Your healthcare provider will tell you how often to drain fluid. You may need to follow a schedule, such as draining 1 time each day or 1 time every other day. Your provider may instead tell you to drain fluid when you have symptoms such as pain. Do not change how often you drain your catheter without talking to your healthcare provider.

What should I do before I drain fluid?

How do I drain fluid from my catheter?

What should I do after I drain fluid?

What else do I need to know?

What are the risks of a chest or abdominal catheter?

Your catheter may move out of place or become blocked. Your catheter may cause an infection. Too much fluid may be drained from your abdomen or chest. This may cause you to feel lightheaded, dizzy, or weak. A catheter in your chest may cause your lung to collapse. This may cause trouble breathing and become life-threatening.

Call 911 or have someone else call for any of the following:

When should I seek immediate care?

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

Care Agreement

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 healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

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Further information

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