Thoracentesis is done at a doctor's office or hospital. The entire procedure (including preparation) usually takes 10 to 15 minutes, but the needle or tube is in your chest for only a few minutes during that time. If there's a lot of fluid, the procedure may take up to 45 minutes.
You’ll sit on the edge of a chair or exam table, lean forward, and rest your arms on a table. Your doctor will tell you not to move, cough, or breathe deeply once the procedure begins.
He or she cleans the area of your skin where the needle or tube will be inserted and injects medicine to numb the area. You may feel some stinging at this time.
Your doctor then inserts the needle or tube between your ribs and into the pleural space (the space between the lungs and the chest wall). You may feel some discomfort and pressure at this time.
Your doctor may use ultrasound to find the right place to insert the needle or tube. Ultrasound uses sound waves to create pictures of the structures in your body, such as your lungs.
Your doctor then draws out the excess fluid around your lungs using the needle or tube. You may feel like coughing, and you may feel some chest pain. If a lot of fluid is removed, your lungs will have more room to fill with air as the fluid is drawn out. This can make it easier to breathe.
Once the fluid is removed, your doctor takes out the needle or tube. A small bandage is placed on the site where the needle or tube was inserted.