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Discharge Instructions for Thoracentesis

Thoracentesis is a procedure that removes extra fluid from the pleural space. The space is between the outside surface of the lungs (pleura) and the chest wall. The extra fluid is called pleural effusion. The procedure may be done to take a sample of the fluid. This is so it can be tested to help find the cause. Or it may be done to drain the extra fluid if you are having trouble breathing.

Front view of man's chest showing tube draining fluid from space next to lung.

Home care

  • You may have some pain after the procedure. Your provider can prescribe or advise what pain medicine for you to take at home, if needed. Take these exactly as directed.

  • If you stopped taking other medicines before the procedure, ask your provider when you can start them again.

  • Take it easy for 48 hours after the procedure. Don't do anything active until your provider says it’s OK.

  • Don't do strenuous activities, such as lifting, until your provider says it’s OK.

  • You will have a small bandage over the puncture site. You may remove the bandage in 24 hours.

  • Check the puncture site for the signs of infection listed below.


Make a follow-up appointment with your provider as directed. During your follow-up visit, your provider will check your healing. Be sure to let your provider know how you are feeling.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your provider right away if you have any of these:

  • Coughing up blood

  • Chest pain (if chest pain suddenly gets worse, call 911)

  • Shortness of breath

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your provider

  • Pain that doesn't get better after taking pain medicine

  • Signs of infection at the puncture site. These include increased pain, redness, warmth, swelling, or fluid leaking that is green or yellow or smells bad

  • Fluid draining from the puncture site

  • Bleeding from the puncture site

Online Medical Reviewer: Jonas DeMuro MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Louise Cunningham RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Mandy Snyder APRN
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2020
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