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What is a thoracentesis (pleural tap)/Closed Pleural Biopsy?

After using an injection of local anesthetic, the needle goes through the skin, between the ribs and into the pleural space.

A sample of fluid is taken and sent to the laboratory for testing. If you have a closed pleural biopsy the same process is used to remove tissue samples from the inside lining of the chest wall.

Finally, the needle is taken out and sometimes may require stitches (if a pleural biopsy is taken) and a dressing is put over the area and then a chest X-ray may be needed.


This procedure will require an anesthetic: Local anesthetic and, sometimes, sedation for your procedure. Local anesthesia is generally very safe, but any anesthetic can have side effects or complications.

Anesthesia Side Effects


  • Local pain and bruising at the injection


  • Allergy to the local anesthetic solution
  • Ineffectiveness or does not work, requiring a further injection of anesthetic or a different type
  • Local infection requiring antibiotics and further treatment
  • Damage to nearby structures such as blood vessels, nerves and muscles
  • Temporary nerve damage (days to months), causing local weakness and/or numbness


  • Permanent nerve
  • Overdose of local
  • Seizures
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Death (Extremely rare)

Before and after the procedure

  • Do not eat or drink anything for at least six hours before the procedure
  • Coagulation analysis should be done within 2 months before the procedure. If using Anticoagulants or Aspirin inform your doctor as you probably will need to stop/change them
  • Bring your X-rays or CT scans with you
  • Contact your doctor or hospital:
  1. If you have a fever that does not go away
  2. If you have oozing or discharge from the wound
  3. IMMEDIATELY if you have difficulty in breathing

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