Skip to Content



A thoracentesis is a procedure to remove extra fluid or air from between your lungs and your inner chest wall. Air or fluid buildup may make it hard for you to breathe. A thoracentesis allows your lungs to expand fully so you can breathe more easily.


The week before your procedure:

  • Write down the correct date, time, and location of your procedure.
  • Arrange a ride home. Ask a family member or friend to drive you home after your surgery or procedure. Do not drive yourself home.
  • Ask your caregiver if you need to stop using aspirin or any other prescribed or over-the-counter medicine before your procedure or surgery.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you are allergic to any medicines. Tell him about any medical conditions you may have, such as diabetes or a bleeding disorder.
  • You may need to have blood tests, chest x-rays, or a CT scan. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about these tests. Write down the date, time, and location of each test.

The day of your procedure:

  • Caregivers may insert an intravenous tube (IV) into your vein. A vein in the arm is usually chosen. Through the IV tube, you may be given liquids and medicine.
  • 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. 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:

  • You will be given local anesthesia to numb the area where the needle will be inserted. Your healthcare provider will insert the needle and move it between your ribs. He may use an ultrasound to help guide the needle.
  • If your procedure is done to collect fluid for tests, a small amount of fluid is removed. Then the needle is removed and a dressing is placed over the area. If more fluid needs to be drained, a small plastic tube will be placed and the needle removed. The tube will be connected to a collection device and the fluid will slowly drain out. A device may be used to measure the pressure inside your chest. This will help your healthcare provider check if enough fluid has been drained. When enough fluid has drained out, the tube will be removed and the area will be covered with a dressing.

After your procedure:

You will need to stay in bed and rest after your procedure. When your healthcare provider sees that you are okay, you will be allowed to go home. If your healthcare provider wants you to stay in the hospital, you will be taken to your hospital room. A chest x-ray may be needed to check that your lungs were not damaged during the procedure.


  • You cannot make it to your procedure.
  • You get a cold, the flu, or have a fever.
  • You have questions or concerns about your procedure or care.

Seek Care Immediately if

  • The problems for which you are having the procedure get worse.


  • Your lung may be punctured by the needle and collapse. You may bleed more than expected or get an infection from the procedure. You may also have chest pain, a cough, nausea, or feel lightheaded. Nerves, blood vessels, and nearby organs, such as your liver and spleen, may get damaged. Even after your procedure, the air or fluid in your chest may not drain completely. The air or fluid may build up again and you may need another thoracentesis.
  • Without a thoracentesis, the extra air or fluid may continue to build up in your chest. Your breathing problems will get worse. You may need to have other procedures to drain the air or fluid. Your healthcare provider may not be able to learn more about the cause of your condition. You may not get the treatment that you need.

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 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.