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Thoracentesis is a minimally invasive, image-guided procedure used to remove extra fluid between the lungs and chest wall. The fluid can then be studied in a lab to determine the cause behind fluid buildup, called pleural effusion or “water on the lungs.”

The University of Miami Health System interventional radiology experts perform thoracentesis to help your doctors provide the right treatment for your condition. 

Why Choose UHealth?

Expert care from highly trained interventional radiologists. Our interventional radiologists and radiology specialists are experts in a variety of minimally invasive procedures — everything from treatments to clear blocked blood vessels to advanced cancer therapies like NanoKnife®.

Leading-edge imaging care in South Florida. Our doctors are also researchers discovering new ways to improve diagnosis and treatment. That means you can get some of today’s most promising advancements through clinical trials. You benefit from the latest developments that are fast-tracked from the lab to the bedside.

Questions? We're here to help.

Our appointment specialists are ready to help you find what you need. Contact us today.

What is Pleural Effusion?

Pleural effusion is a condition where excess fluid builds up inside the pleura (the space between the lungs and the chest wall). Too much fluid can prevent the lungs from expanding completely, making it more difficult to breathe and causing chest pain.

Pleural effusion can have serious causes including:

Who is a Candidate?

If it is suspected that you may have pleural effusion, your doctor will likely recommend thoracentesis to diagnose the condition.

What to Expect

Your interventional radiologist may advise you to stop taking aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or other blood-thinning medicines before your procedure. You’re awake for this quick, 15-minute procedure. You’re sitting up, with your head and arms resting on a table in front of you.

First, your interventional radiologist applies a local anesthetic to numb the area on your back where they will insert a needle. Once the area is numbed, they use ultrasound guidance to place a needle between your second and third ribs and into your pleura to draw out a sample of fluid.

Your doctor removes the needle and applies a bandage or dressing the injection site. The fluid is then sent to a lab to be studied.

After thoracentesis, you may need to stay in the hospital for a few hours for observation before going home to rest (outpatient procedure). Typically, you can resume normal activities within a few days.

Accepted Insurances

Note: Health plans that are currently contracted with UHealth are listed below. However, please check with your insurance provider to verify that UHealth is part of your provider network.