What Are MIIPs? / Thoracentesis for Excess Fluid in the Chest

Why do I have too much fluid around my lung?
The lungs are normally surrounded by a tiny amount of fluid. Some medical conditions can cause more fluid to build up in the chest and around the lungs, including:

    • Cancer
    • Infection/ Pneumonia
    • Heart failure
    • Liver disease
    • Kidney disease

It can become hard to breathe if too much fluid builds up around the lungs. Sometimes your doctor may want to test the fluid to figure out what is causing it.

My doctor says I need a thoracentesis – what does that mean?

A thoracentesis is a minimally invasive, image-guided procedure (MIIP) to drain excess fluid from the chest through a tiny tube.  

What happens during a thoracentesis?

Your doctor will use medical imaging to find the pocket of fluid. After cleaning your back, your doctor will numb your skin. She or he will then place a thin tube into the space surrounding your lungs and drain the fluid through tubing and into a bag. The procedure usually takes a few minutes. Your doctor will remove the tube at the end.

Sometimes it is necessary to leave a little tube in your chest to continue draining fluid or abnormal air around the lungs. This is called a chest tube. 

Alternatively, if the fluid builds up again, you may need to have another thoracentesis to remove it.

What are the risks and side effects of a thoracentesis?
A thoracentesis is a very safe, low risk procedure. Temporary coughing is the most common side effect. Uncommon complications may include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Deflated or collapsed lung

Your doctor will discuss all of the risks and benefits with you before your thoracentesis.

For more information:

When excess fluid in the chest is caused by cancer, it is called a malignant pleural effusion.
For more information:

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