Thoracentesis in Ultrasound
Your local doctor has scheduled a thoracentesis to be done in Ultrasound on __________________ at ________ ( )am, ( )pm. Please report to the G3/3 Radiology desk (Atrium elevators to the 3rd floor).
This handout explains what will happen to you. Our doctors will explain the procedure, and ask you to sign a formal consent.
Why do I need a Thoracentesis?
Your doctor has found that you have fluid around your lung. This is a problem that can occur for many reasons.
Normally, there is no fluid around your lungs and your lungs can fill with air (inflate) fully without a problem. When fluid builds up between your chest wall and lungs, it pushes on your lungs so that they do not inflate properly. By removing the fluid, your lungs can once again fully inflate with air.
A thoracentesis is also done to find out why fluid is building up within the chest. A small sample of fluid can be removed for testing. This sample helps the doctor to figure out what may be causing the fluid build-up.
What are symptoms of fluid around the lungs?
Coughing on and off
Tight feeling in chest
Rapid/very difficult breathing
Feeling of doom or anxiety
How to prepare for a thoracentesis?
1 You will need to have blood work done before your procedure to test how well your blood clots. This can be done the day of the procedure. Please have all outside lab work faxed to Ultrasound Nursing Coordinator Office (608) 890-9122. The blood work includes a platelet count and an INR.
2 If you are currently taking regular aspirin 325 mg (baby aspirin 81 mg daily does not need to be stopped), Coumadin®, or Plavix®, we ask that you stop taking your medicine five days before your thoracentesis. Please check with your local doctor to confirm that this is okay. Count the day of the procedure as day 6. Do not take the medicine on day 6, day 5, day 4, day 3, day 2, or day 1.
3 Tell us if you have allergies to latex, contrast dye, or medicines.
What should I expect during a thoracentesis?
The doctor will use ultrasound (a machine that sends sound waves through the skin and creates images on a TV screen) to find the fluid. Most times, the fluid is drained from the middle back or side. The skin will be cleaned with soap at the site the doctor decides is best for the fluid drainage.
Numbing medicine will be injected under the skin at this site. A small needle will be inserted into the fluid. After this, a small tube is exchanged for the needle. The fluid will be drained out through the tube with a syringe.
At the end of the procedure, you may cough as your lungs start to fully inflate again. This can last for an hour or so after the fluid is removed. You should keep a dressing or Band-Aid® on the site for the next 24 hours.
You will have a chest x-ray after the procedure. The chest x-ray is taken to see if you have a buildup of air outside the lung. This is a rare, but may need further attention.
After the local anesthetic wears off, you may feel slight pain at the site. Your pain should not be severe, but patients have described it as mildly sore. No medicines are prescribed for the soreness. If you are having soreness, we suggest the use of Tylenol®. The soreness should go away within the first 24 hours.
What can I do after the procedure?
You can resume your normal routine, as you are able. You should call your local doctor if you begin to have early symptoms of fluid build up again. Sometimes, the fluid will build up again, and you may need to repeat the thoracentesis.
When do I call the doctor?
- If you feel dizzy, faint or light-headed.
- If your pain around the site gets worse rather than better 2-3 days later.
- If you are not feeling well and have a fever greater than 100.4° F (38° C).
- If you develop redness and swelling around the site.
Important If you have shortness of breath, or cannot catch your breath, or have a persistent cough with or without the presence of blood, you need to go the nearest emergency room
Any questions or concerns you may have about your procedure please call 1-800-323-8942. This will give you the paging operator. Ask for the Ultrasound Department. The operator will then connect you to someone in our department who can help.
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: 02/13/2013
Copyright © 02/13/2013 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6430
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