University Health Care System
(706) 722-9011

Thoracentesis

Where do I register?

University Hospital is pleased to offer Fast Track, a convenient online pre-registration service. Registering with Fast Track will allow us to verify all demographic and insurance information prior to your visit, so that all of your paperwork is completed and your wait time is decreased. You may use Fast Track if your physician has scheduled you for this procedure or test. Please register two business days prior to your hospital visit. You also may call 706/774-2125 to pre-register if you prefer. Please report to registration on the Heart & Vascular Institute's first floor at your scheduled check-in time.

Where do I park?

Patients and visitors can park in the Heart & Vascular Institute's dedicated flat parking lot off St. Sebastian Way. If you need wheelchair assistance, please park in the main hospital parking deck. 

Patient Instructions

  • Be prepared to stay at the hospital three to four hours. The time of your arrival is not the time for your procedure. Arriving earlier does not ensure a shorter wait. The prep time is 45 minutes to one hour. It may be shorter if your physician had all the pre-procedure work-up done, including blood work, EKG, history and physical, and consent form signed for the procedure. We diligently strive to stay on schedule but a delay in the case ahead of yours or an emergency can cause increased wait time. On rare occasions you might need to remain in the hospital, if the physician decides to continue close observation on you.
  • Follow your physician's instructions on what medications to take. If you are diabetic, ask the office if you should take your diabetic medications.
  • Bring a list of all medications you are currently taking, including insulin, vitamins and herbal preparations.
  • If you are taking the medication Glucophage (Metformin) or a blood thinner (Coumadin or Warfarin), let your doctor know as the dose may be held or adjusted.
  • Have an adult come to the hospital with you to drive you home if possible. You will be able to drive yourself. Arrange for a responsible adult to help you at home for 24 hours.
  • Wear comfortable clothing.
  • Leave all jewelry and money at home.
  • You may wear your eyeglasses, hearing aids and dentures.
  • Please DO NOT bring small children.

The day of your procedure

Please check in with the registration staff. After the registration process is finished, the CVPR room nurse will transport you to the fifth floor where the CVPR room is located. There is a small waiting room for your visitors to wait during the procedure. You will be asked to disrobe from the waist up and put on a gown. The nurse will apply electrodes to monitor your heart and other equipment to monitor your vital signs. The nurse will have you lie on the table until the physician arrives, and then you will sit up to allow the physician to get to your back to perform the procedure. The room is typically kept warm but the temperature can be increased and blankets provided as needed. Your family (one to three members) may remain with you until the physician arrives. If more are present, they will be asked to wait in the waiting room just down the hallway from the procedure room.

What happens in a Thoracentesis?

A thoracentesis involves drainage of fluid from the chest (pleural) space by placing a catheter (tubing) in the space to remove the fluid, allowing the lung to re-expand. This process involves cleansing the skin with an antiseptic solution, numbing the area with a small amount of local anesthetic such as Lidocaine, and then inserting first a needle and then a plastic tube (catheter) to drain fluid from the affected lung. The procedure is done to ease your breathing and remove an obstruction that prevents the lung from filling with air. The collected fluid may be sent off for tests to examine for abnormal cells or infection (cytology). You may feel slightly weak at the end of the procedure due to the removal of fluid from the lung space, and you will remain in the room until you feel better. Additionally you may have some soreness in the back and shoulder as the lung re-expands. This will usually pass quickly and is due to the lung stretching back into the space. After the procedure, a chest X-ray will be performed in the room. After it is viewed by your physician, you will be released. The tests on the fluid will take one to three days to get back to your physician, who will discuss any results with you.

What activities can I perform after I go home?

You may resume your normal activities except: Do not shower the day of your procedure and do not engage in heavy activity such as lifting. A dressing will be placed on the site, which you may remove the next day. You will be able to drive, but it is advisable to have someone to drive you home.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will I be asleep for the procedure?
No, you will receive a small injection and a local anesthetic agent. You will be asked to sit up during the procedure to allow the physician access to your back. You will remain sitting up until the procedure is finished. If you become dizzy or have pain, please let the nurse know.

How long will the procedure last?
It will take 30-45 minutes to register, and the procedure takes 20-30 minutes. An additional 30-45 minutes will be needed for the X-ray to be obtained and read by the physician. You may need to stay longer if you are still weak.

Will the fluid come back?
Usually the fluid will not re-accumulate. The physician will have you follow up with either him/her or your regular doctor. Please report any shortness of breath or other complaints to your doctor.

Thank you for choosing University Hospital.
We strive to give excellent service and hope we meet your expectations.
Please let us know what we can do for you.

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© 2014   University Health Care System
1350 Walton Way, Augusta, Georgia
(706) 722-9011