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Diagnostic and Therapeutic Thoracentesis

Unexplained shortness of breath is not only uncomfortable, but also worrisome to patients. Breathing problems can be attributed to heart failure, kidney disease, tumors and certain types of infections.

To help you obtain an accurate diagnosis and start treatment sooner, Rex Pulmonary Specialists offers both diagnostic and therapeutic thoracentesis.

When used for diagnostic purposes, thoracentesis removes extra fluid in the space between the lungs and chest wall for testing; these results can provide your medical team with important information about what’s causing the buildup. Used therapeutically, the removal of fluid during the procedure can immediately improve your symptoms.

Before the tests:

  • No special preparation is needed. Your doctor may ask you to stop taking certain blood thinners (such as Coumadin) before the procedure.
  • A chest X-ray will be performed before and after testing.


Thoracentesis is a fairly simple, 15-minute procedure:

  • Your doctor will ask you to sit on the edge of a chair with your head and arms on a table in front of you.
  • A local anesthetic is injected, which may sting.
  • A needle is inserted above your ribs and the doctor will remove fluid for testing or to ease your breathing.
  • Although the procedure lasts only 15 minutes, you will be evaluated for a few hours afterward to ensure you don’t experience any complications.
  • In some patients, an ultrasound is used to evaluate the amount and location of fluid before the procedure.

People rarely experience problems due to a thoracentesis, but risks include bleeding, fluid buildup in the lungs, infection, a collapsed lung and respiratory distress.

No matter what the diagnosis, you can rest assured that Rex Pulmonary Specialists will work with you and other specialists to ensure your treatment plan is comprehensive and geared toward getting you the best outcome possible.