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When fluid builds up in the chest, in the space surrounding the lung, it is called a pleural effusion. Pleural effusions can cause pain and shortness of breath.

In order to figure out why fluid is building up and/or to treat the above symptoms, the fluid can be removed. Under real-time ultrasound guidance, a pocket of fluid is identified. Then, the overlying skin and soft tissues are numbed with an injection of numbing medication. Finally, a small needle and catheter are introduced into the fluid. The fluid is removed, and samples may be submitted for laboratory evaluation.

The procedure has a low risk of bleeding, infection, and damage to nearby organs. In particular, it has a small, but real risk of a pneumothorax, which is when air fills the space between the lung and the chest wall. In order to evaluation for this complication, we usually perform a chest x-ray after the procedure is finished. We perform this procedure for both inpatients and outpatients. Inpatients usually can return to their room immediately after the procedure. Outpatients also usually can return home immediately after the procedure.

Doctors performing Thoracentesis

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