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 chest wall).
Doctors use thoracentesis to find the cause of a pleural effusion. The procedure also might be done to remove excess fluid from the pleural space and help you breathe easier.
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 (PULL-mun-ary EM-bo-lizm), and other lung infections. Asbestosis (as-bes-TOE-sis), sarcoidosis (sar-koy-DO-sis), and reactions to some drugs also can lead to a pleural effusion.
Your doctor will diagnose a pleural effusion 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. He or she also may ask 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. Your doctor also may hear a dull sound when tapping on your chest.
You may have one or more of the following tests to diagnose a pleural effusion.
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.