Thoracocentesis is a procedure where a needle attached to a syringe is inserted through the skin, between the ribs and into the chest cavity to obtain a sample of fluid or to remove air from around the lungs.
The chest cavity (pleural space) is a small space between the lungs and the inside of the chest wall. The pleural space is normally void of fluid and air (it contains negative pressure to allow the lungs to inflate when inhaling). Fluid or air within the pleural space can lead to respiratory difficulty and removing the fluid/air can dramatically improve a patient’s ability to breathe.
Fluid (pleural effusion) can accumulate in the pleural space with diseases such as heart failure, cancer, bleeding disorders, and infection.
Air (pneumothorax) can accumulate in the pleural space due to penetrating thoracic injuries, dog fights, or patients struck by an automobile. Any fluid that is removed is evaluated for evidence of infection, cancer and inflammation by a veterinary pathologist.
Ultrasound guidance is frequently used during the procedure to direct the needle and minimize complications such as lacerating a lung lobe. Pain medications, sedation and occasionally general anesthesia are used when performing a thoracocentesis.
Your pet may need a thoracocentesis if your veterinarian has diagnosed your pet with pleural effusion or a pneumothorax.