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Thoracentesis is a common procedure used for the diagnosis and treatment of pleural fluid (pleural effusion or lung fluid). Your pleura is a large, thin sheet of tissue that wraps around the outside of your lungs and lines the inside of your chest cavity. A thoracentesis can be performed with or without ultrasound guidance, and a small needle is used to enter the fluid. Usually, only local anesthesia is needed for adequate patient comfort.

Video of a Thoracic Ultrasound

Why is it used?

  • Pleural effusion results from numerous conditions, including post surgery, congestive heart failure, liver disease, kidney disease, infections, cancer, lupus, TB, and radiation exposure
  • Performing thoracentesis allows the pleural fluid to be analyzed for chemical content, infectious problems and abnormal cells, including cancer
  • If malignancy is suspected and pleural fluid is non-diagnostic, medical thoracoscopy is usually performed

What Makes Thoracentesis Different?

  • The diagnosis of pleural effusions depends on obtaining a sample of pleural fluid
  • The safest way to sample the fluid is by thoracentesis
  • In most cases, ultrasound guidance is used during thoracentesis to improve procedure safety and to determine the optimal location to sample

Benefits of Thoracentesis

  • Thoracentesis can remove pleural fluid resulting in improvement in shortness of breath, coughing, hypoxemia (low oxygen levels), and the inability to lie flat

Learn More About Thoracentesis

At UC San Diego Medical Center’s Interventional Pulmonology Unit, the following interventional pulmonologists specialize in performing thoracentesis:

All referrals will still have the option of continuing their treatment with their primary care physicians after thoracentesis.

For an appointment, for more information, or to find out how to refer a patient, please contact the Interventional Pulmonology Unit, 619-543-5840.

Interventional Pulmonology
UC San Diego Medical Center, 3rd Floor, South Wing
200 West Arbor Drive
San Diego, CA 619-543-5840