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What Are the Risks of Thoracentesis?

The risks of thoracentesis usually are minor. They include:

  • Pneumothorax. This is a condition in which air collects in the pleural space (the space between the lungs and chest wall). Sometimes air comes in through the needle, or the needle makes a hole in the lung. Usually, a hole will seal itself. If enough air gets into the pleural space, however, the lung can collapse. Your doctor may need to put a tube in your chest to remove the air and let the lung expand again.
  • Pain, bleeding, bruising, or infection where the needle or tube was inserted. Although rare, bleeding can occur in or around the lungs. Your doctor may need to put a tube in your chest to drain the blood. Sometimes surgery is needed to treat the bleeding.   
  • Liver or spleen injuries. These complications are very rare.

Your doctor may do a chest x ray after the procedure to check for lung problems.

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Thoracentesis Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies that explore whether a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans. To find clinical trials that are currently underway for Thoracentesis, visit

February 24, 2012 Last Updated Icon

The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.