Discharge Instructions for Thoracentesis

Front view of man's chest showing tube draining fluid from space next to lung.Thoracentesis is a procedure that removes extra fluid (pleural effusion) from the pleural space. This space is between the outside surface of the lungs (pleura) and the chest wall. The procedure may be done to take a sample of the fluid for testing to help find the cause. Or it may be done to drain the extra fluid if you are having trouble breathing.

Home care

  • You may have some pain after the procedure. Your doctor can prescribe or recommend 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 doctor when you can start them again.

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

  • Don't do strenuous activities, such as lifting, until your doctor 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 doctor as directed. During your follow-up visit, your doctor will check your healing. Be sure to let your doctor know how you are feeling.

When to call your doctor

Call your doctor right away if you have any of the following:

  • Coughing up blood

  • Chest pain. If chest pain suddenly gets worse, it may be an emergency.

  • Shortness of breath

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

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

  • Signs of infection at the puncture site. These include increased pain, redness, swelling, or warmth.

  • Fluid draining from the puncture site