Thoracentesis (Pleural Tap)


Catherine Spader, RN

What is a thoracentesis (pleural tap)?

A thoracentesis (pleural tap) is a procedure that removes fluid from around the lungs, or pleural fluid. Your doctor may recommend a thoracentesis to diagnose and guide treatment for certain diseases, such as cancer, infections, and heart failure. 

Pleural fluid cushions and lubricates the lungs as they expand and contract with breathing. Pleural fluid is located in the pleural space, the space inside the lining that covers the lungs and inside of your chest. Certain diseases and conditions cause a buildup of pus, blood, or too much pleural fluid in the pleural space. This is called pleural effusion, which can put pressure on the lungs and make it difficult to breathe.