Your doctor may recommend thoracentesis if you have a pleural effusion. A pleural effusion is the buildup of excess fluid in the pleural space (the space between the lungs and the chest wall).
Thoracentesis helps find the cause of the pleural effusion. It also may be done to help you breathe easier if there's a lot of fluid in the pleural space.
The most common cause of a pleural effusion is heart failure. This is a condition in which the heart can't pump enough blood to the body.
Other causes include lung cancer, tumors, pneumonia, tuberculosis, pulmonary embolism, and other lung infections. Asbestosis, sarcoidosis, and reactions to some drugs also can lead to a pleural effusion.
Diagnosing a Pleural Effusion
A pleural effusion is diagnosed based on your medical history, a physical exam, and test results.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, such as trouble breathing, coughing, and hiccups. Other things your doctor may ask about include whether you've ever:
Your doctor will listen to your breathing with a stethoscope and tap lightly on your chest. If you have a pleural effusion, your breathing may sound muffled. There also may be a dull sound when your doctor taps on your chest.
Your doctor may use one or more of the following tests to diagnose a pleural effusion.