Chest Tube Insertion (Thoracostomy)
Chest tubes are used to drain excess fluid, blood, or air from the spaces around the lungs. When fluid or air collects in those spaces, the lungs can’t expand the way they should. By placing a hollow plastic tube between the ribs and into the chest, the extra fluid or air can be drained from the chest. This allows the patient to breath with less effort. The tube is connected to a container that collects the drainage until all or most of the air or fluid has been drained out. Also, it is often hooked up to a suction machine to help with the drainage.
There are common reasons for placing chest tubes. They include:
- Collapsed lung – when air builds up in the spaces around the lungs, it can cause the lung to collapse. Removing teh air allows the lung to re-expand and seal the leak.
- Infection –a chest tube may be used to remove infected fluid around the lung.
- Increased fluid – for some cancers and other conditions, large amounts of fluid build up around the lungs. If this fluid keeps coming back, chest tubes may be used to drain the fluid and prevent build-up.
- Comfort – chest tubes can be used to drain excess fluid or air and make it easier for a patient to breathe.
As with any procedure, there are risks. Some of the risks include:
- Pain – Patients may feel discomfort as the doctor inserts the tube. Numbing drugs can be used to lessen the pain.
- Bleeding – When the doctor inserts the tube, there is a risk of nicking a blood vessel. If this happens, the bleeding is often minor and stops on its own. Patients may notice a bruise on the chest wall. Rarely, bleeding can occur in or around the lungs and need surgery to stop it.
- Infection – This is caused by bacteria getting into the tube. The longer the tube is in place, the greater the chances of getting an infection. The risk is decreased by special care in cleaning and bandaging the skin at the point where teh tube goes into the chest.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 11/06/2012
Copyright © 11/06/2012 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6341
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