Thoracentesis is a careful and minimally invasive medical procedure that treats pleural effusion. Pleural effusion is a condition that includes excess space between the lungs where fluid can become trapped. This can cause shortness of breath, chest pain, and even lung pressure. Your doctor at Missouri Heart Center will prep you before the procedure, including any changes to your medication.

What to Expect

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Before going through your procedure, typically, your doctor will test your blood to determine if your blood is clotting normally as well as the health of your kidneys. Your doctor should be aware of all medications you have been taking, including natural supplements. Be sure to also inform your doctor of any recent illnesses.

Also be sure to tell your doctor if you:

  • Are on blood thinners
  • Have had any lung diseases in the past or present
  • Have had lung surgery
  • Could possibly be pregnant
  • Other medical complications you are concerned about

You may be asked to remove all clothing. If you are going to be sedated for the procedure please bring along a relative or close friend to drive you home afterward.


Your doctor will help you position yourself on the edge of a chair or bed with your arms resting on either side of you on the examination table. Your doctor will then choose the area on which to insert the needle for your procedure. That area will typically be located on your back between two ribs. This area will be sterilized and numbed by your doctor before the needle is inserted. The procedure will then commence using the syringe or a suction bottle to remove the excess fluid. The average Thoracentesis procedure lasts 15-20 minutes.

You may feel a slight prick as the needle is inserted into your vein for the IV. Most of the sensation you will feel during this procedure will be on the skin where the incision is made to reach into the vein or artery. Your doctor may also ask you to do your best to not cough or breath in deeply during the procedure to avoid injury.


The physician treating you will determine the results of the procedure and report to your primary care physician who will then share the results with you. Your Missouri Heart physician may recommend follow-up visits or primary care physician check-ups to ensure your future health. This will also give you an opportunity to share any side effects you may feel from the procedure.


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What do I do with the results?

The results will tell you, and your doctor, what is causing your Thoracentesis. One example would be that the Thoracentesis was caused by some infection or bacterial growth. This would then be combated with antibiotics.

How long does the procedure take?

The Thoracentesis typically takes between 15-20 minutes

Is there any down-time after this procedure?

No. While we do ask you limit your physical activity for the first week, you will be clear to resume your normal activities.