A Pleural-tapping is a procedure used to drain excess fluid from the space outside of the lungs but inside the chest cavity. Normally, this area contains about 20 milliliters of clear or yellow fluid. If there’s excess fluid in this area, it can cause symptoms such as shortness of breath and coughing. An excess of pleural fluid, known as pleural effusion, will show up on a chest X-ray, CT scan, or ultrasound. Your doctor will perform a thoracentesis by inserting a hollow needle or catheter into the space between two ribs in your back. This space between two ribs is called the intercostal space. The procedure typically takes place under local anesthesia. Once your doctor has drained the excess fluid, they’ll send it to the laboratory to determine the contents of the fluid and likely cause of the fluid buildup.
Thoracentesis, also known as a pleural tap, is a procedure done when there’s too much fluid in the pleural space. This allows a pleural fluid analysis to be performed in the lab to figure out the cause of fluid accumulation around one or both of the lungs. The pleural space is the small space between the lungs and the chest wall. This space typically contains approximately 4 teaspoons of fluid. Some conditions can cause more fluid to enter this space.
These conditions include:
pneumonia or other lung infection
congestive heart failure
chronic lung diseases
This is called pleural effusion. If there’s excess fluid, it can compress the lungs and cause difficulty breathing.
The goal of a thoracentesis is to drain the fluid and make it easier for you to breathe again. In some cases, the procedure will also help your doctor discover the cause of the pleural effusion. The amount of fluid drained varies depending on the reasons for performing the procedure. It typically takes 10 to 15 minutes, but it can take longer if there’s a lot of fluid in the pleural space.
Your doctor may also perform a pleural biopsy at the same time, to get a piece of tissue from the lining of your inner chest wall. Abnormal results on a pleural biopsy can indicate certain causes for the effusion, including:
the presence of cancer cells,
such as lung cancer
mesothelioma, which is an asbestos-related cancer of the tissues that cover the lungs
collagen vascular disease
viral or fungal diseases