- Determine the cause of pleural effusion.
- Remove excess pleural fluid to assist respiration and provide symptomatic relief.
- History: SOB, cough and pain
- Reduced AE on affected sides
- Reduced vocal fremitus and resonance
- Stony dull to percussion
- Pleural rub only present in small effusions
- CXR: Not abnormal until >175ml fluid present, initially blunted CPA with fluid level meniscus
- USS: Estimates size and useful in thoracocentesis direction
- CT Chest: Estimate size, loculation and confirmation of additional pathology e.g. tumour or PTE
- Local skin infection
- Uncooperative patient
- Uncorrected bleeding diathesis (in particular platelets <50 and INR>2)
- Relative contraindication with bullous lung disease and small effusions
Defining the correct site:
- Mark the optimal site for aspiration, on the posterolateral aspect of the chest wall (midscapular or posterior axillary line), 1–2 intercostal spaces below the percussed upper border of the effusion.
- Ensure the proposed site is directly over a palpable intercostal space and above the level of the diaphragm (no lower than the 8th intercostal space).
- Note: If the effusion is poorly defined clinically do not proceed; request USS to mark the effusion.
References and Links
- CCC – Pleural effusion
- CCC – Pleural tap
- CCC – Pleural fluid analysis
- Video of Thoracocentesis [Loyola University]
Associate Professor Curtin Medical School, Curtin University. Emergency physician MA (Oxon) MBChB (Edin) FACEM FFSEM Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital. Passion for rugby; medical history; medical education; and asynchronous learning #FOAMed evangelist. Co-founder and CTO of Life in the Fast lane | Eponyms | Books | Twitter |