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Discharge Instructions for Thoracentesis

Thoracentesis is a procedure that removes excess fluid from the pleural space called a pleural effusion. This space is between the outside surface of the lungs (pleura) and the chest wall. The procedure may be done to take a sample of the fluid for testing to help determine the cause. Or, if you are having symptoms such as trouble breathing, it may also be done to drain the excess fluid to improve symptoms.

Outline of man showing fluid trapped between collapsed lung and body wall on right side. Normal lung on left. Tube inserted into chest between ribs on right is removing trapped fluid.
Thoracentesis removes excess fluid from the space around the lungs.

Home Care

  • You may have some pain after the procedure. If needed, your doctor can prescribe or recommend pain medications for you to take at home. Take these exactly as directed. If you stopped taking other medications before the procedure, ask your doctor when you can start them again.

  • Take it easy for 48 hours after the procedure. Avoid being active until your doctor says it’s okay.

  • Avoid strenuous activities, such as lifting, until your doctor says it’s okay.

  • You will have a small bandage over the puncture site. You may remove the bandage in 24 hours.

  • Check the puncture site for the signs of infection listed below.

Follow-Up

Make a follow-up appointment with your doctor as directed. During your follow-up visit, your doctor will check your healing. Be sure to let your doctor know how you are feeling.

When to Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor right away if you have any of the following:

  • Coughing up blood

  • Chest pain (If chest pain worsens abruptly, it may be an emergency.)

  • Shortness of breath

  • A fever of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher

  • Pain not relieved by pain medication

  • Signs of infection at the puncture site. These include increased pain, redness, or swelling, warmth, or foul-smelling drainage.

© 2000-2014 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.